Game Snapshot: Titans - Patriots

<b>Tennessee Titans</b> (3-1) at <b> New England Patriots</b> (2-2)<br><b>GAME SNAPSHOT</b><br><b>KICKOFF:</b> Sunday, 1:00 ET<br> <b>GAMEDATE:</b> 10/05/03<br><b>SURFACE:</b> Grass<br><b>TV: </b> CBS, Gus Johnson, Brent Jones<br><br><b> SERIES: </b> 36th meeting. Patriots lead all-time series, 18-16-1, but lost last year, 24-7, in Nashville. The Patriots are 13-6-1 all-time against the Oilers/Titans at home and beat the then Tennessee Oilers 27-16 in the last meeting in Foxborough.

New England has won five of its last six home games against the Oilers/Titans.

2003 RANKINGS: Titans: offense 25th (30th rush, 14th pass); defense 5th (3rd rush, 19th pass). Patriots: offense 17th (16th rush, 21st pass); defense 8th (13th rush, 12th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Titans' offensive line has held up fairly well, but RB Eddie George is struggling to hit holes, and rookie Chris Brown will continue to get increased carries. WRs Justin McCareins and Drew Bennett need to keep proving they are legitimate targets for QB Steve McNair to keep teams from double-teaming Derrick Mason. The Patriots are beat up on both sides of the ball, and will try to get the offensive line in the flow early in the running game. The Titans have strong pass rushers, but can be handled with good power run blocking. New England QB Tom Brady will struggle to find the time to look deep downfield.

FAST FACTS: Titans: The team has lost three straight games following wins over Pittsburgh. ... The team is 38-28 on the road under coach Jeff Fisher. ... McNair is 15-5 in games played in October. Patriots: The defense has held the past three opponents to an 18.4 third down conversion percentage. ... They have won five of their past six home games against the Titans. ... Brady has a career record of 22-12.

PREDICTED SCORE: Titans 20, Patriots 17


TE Frank Wycheck missed practice Thursday as he visited with a concussion specialist in Pittsburgh. He is definitely out this week, but could be close to returning. Titans team doctors have cleared him to play, but also advised him to make the trip to see the specialist.

WR Derrick Mason missed practice Thursday because of a death in the family. He is expected to rejoin the team Friday.

WR/PR Justin McCareins twisted an ankle during practice Thursday, but was expected to practice Friday and be fine to play in New England.

LB Peter Sirmon was fighting the flu on Thursday, as if he didn't already have enough problems. He is recovering from fractured transverse process bones in his back and while he remains optimistic, it's likely Rocky Boiman will start for him on Sunday in New England.

C Justin Hartwig is likely to be targeted by Patriots coach Bill Belechick. Though the Pats will be playing a 4-3 instead of their usually 3-4, he could put somebody directly over the inexperienced center, because he's less comfortable with that. Lucky for him massive Ted Washington is out of action with a broken leg.

CB Andre Dyson is likely to wind up covering Troy Brown. The Patriots' top WR has 16 catches and just an 8.1-yard average so far, with no touchdowns.

CB Samari Rolle, coming off a big game in Pittsburgh, will likely be on Patriots WR David Patten, who's only caught five balls this season so far.

DT Albert Haynesworth (elbow) is unlikely to play for the third straight game.

LB Ted Johnson has a broken foot and will not play Sunday.

NT Ted Washington has a broken leg and will not play Sunday.

T Adrian Klemm has an ankle injury and is listed as doubtful. Tom Ashworth will start at right tackle, leaving Brandon Gorin as the backup at both left and right tackle.

FB Fred McCrary remains doubtful with a sprained left knee.

LB Mike Vrabel's broken arm will keep him out for the second straight week even though he is listed as doubtful on the team's injury report.

RB Kevin Faulk is questionable with an undisclosed left leg injury.

WR David Patten should be able to return to the field after missing last week's game with a knee injury. Patten is practicing this week.

WR David Givens is questionable with a chest/shoulder injury that is bothering him, but he is expected to play against Tennessee.

CB Ty Law is still questionable with an ankle injury and remained out of practice, but will most likely participate in the team's walkthrough portions of practice on Friday and Saturday and suit up on Sunday.

LB Willie McGinest remains questionable with a neck injury.

C Damien Woody should return from a knee injury that kept him out of the Washington game and will play guard while rookie Dan Koppen stays the starter at center.

QB Tom Brady is giving up some practice reps to Damon Huard, but will continue playing through his right elbow injury.

G Joe Andruzzi, who underwent microfracture surgery in the offseason and has played through a number of injuries since coming to New England in 2000, is starting to return to form. "He had a play at practice this week where he pulled out and got out front and I told him it was the best I've seen him run in a couple of years," coach Bill Belichick said. Andruzzi was in and out of the lineup last year with the knee injury that required offseason surgery.

RB Mike Cloud may have a chance to play this week after all. Cloud ran with the scout team in practice on Wednesday and according to Belichick, looked "O.K." With Faulk's status up in the air, the Patriots may need Cloud on the game day roster even if in a minor role or on special teams as a kick returner.

S Rodney Harrison commented, when asked, on Rush Limbaugh's controversial statement regarding Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb made on ESPN's Sunday morning football show. "Every time someone states an opinion and they bring color into it ... I mean, what difference does it make what color Donovan McNabb is? I just think it's something that he's been feeling for a long time. He really just said what was on his heart and it really exposed him for who he is," Harrison said.

DL Richard Seymour will play both inside and outside this week depending on what front the Patriots are in on a given play. The team will play mostly a 4-3 front in which Seymour is inside between the guard and tackle as opposed to head up on the tackle as he is as a 3-4 end. Belichick does not want Seymour on the nose where his playmaking lineman can get caught up in too much traffic and be left unable to flow to the football or disrupt enough plays.


Through four games the Titans have shown they cannot run the ball.

Jeff Fisher said the best development for the run game arrived this week when the calendar flipped from September to October. The team always starts slowly with the run, but this time around there is little evidence to lead to confidence things will change.

Eddie George is simply not the same back he used to be, and when he has holes he watches them disappear before he can do anything with them. In Pittsburgh he tripped over the 12-yard line on one play.

Things are so bad that Fisher didn't count 22 carries for 40 yards - a 1.8-yard average - in the win over Pittsburgh as backward movement.

"No, we didn't go backwards," he said. "We just didn't go forwards. We kind of just stayed where we were at. We're not running it very well right now and we're going to continue to work on that. Last year, I think at this time we were 30th, so we're not as bad as we were last year after three or four weeks. We're 29th."

Awfully optimistic coach. Keep giving Chris Brown the ball.

Tom Brady has thrown seven interceptions with two touchdowns in his team's two losses and three touchdown passes and no interceptions in its two wins. His passer rating in those losses is 47.85 while it climbed nearly 50 points to 97.25 in the wins. It's not difficult to relate the Patriots' losses with Brady's ability to take care of the football.

The Patriots quarterback has been uncharacteristically inconsistent this season and seems to be playing outside of what are widely considered his strengths - managing the team, making good reads and decisions and taking care of the football.

But with injuries decimating the Patriots on both sides of the ball, perhaps Brady has tried to take on too much, and in turn is playing outside his ability and trying to make plays that simply aren't there. Even in the team's win at Philadelphia, Brady had two passes thrown directly to Eagles defenders that were dropped. His decision-making has been poor and there's no real explanation for it, especially when one considers that Brady threw 26 interceptions in his first 30 starts and has seven in the last four, which would put him on pace for 28 on the season - more than his total from 2001 and 2002 combined.

"There is definitely evaluation that goes into it and wondering why I make these mistakes and why I've made some bad throws that I would I like to have back," Brady said. "You would like to try to figure those things out and get back out there and prove that's not the type of player I am and it's not the type of team we are.

"We're working on it. I wish I could wipe it all away, but I think there have been some things that I have learned about myself in the last three or four weeks and more in the past 24 hours that I am trying to realize what this is all about and what I need to do to get it done."

Brady did not elaborate on those comments and they are difficult to read into. Perhaps Brady is still learning his limitations as a quarterback and has been forced to accept the deficiencies in his game rather than deny them, which also may hurt his pride. Maybe he is putting to much faith in a mediocre receiving corps and must understand what his teammates do well and how that complements his game.

But whether his injured right elbow and shoulder are affecting his throws or he simply can't make some of the throws he wishes he could, he needs to do whatever it takes to avoid the costly interceptions he's thrown in the team's two losses.

"Wins and losses separate a quarterback," Brady said. "When you win or lose games, a lot of it has to do with turnovers. Ultimately I'm the one holding the ball. You take pride in not turning it over and when you do you sit down and figure it out."

He better figure it out quickly or the Patriots will face more adversity than simply a long injury list; they will face a long, unsuccessful season.

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