Defense is Titans calling card

The Titans have one of the top defenses in the league and their pressure up front is even better than the Vikings' so far. That makes Tennessee dangerous at home and has the Titans on track to be top-10 in several defensive categories.

Even with a change at quarterback, don't expect the Tennessee Titans to suddenly get into any shootouts like the Denver Broncos or San Diego Chargers to win games.

Yes, the Titans offense is much more efficient with Kerry Collins at the controls, but Tennessee's calling card in its 3-0 start has been the play of the defense, which ranks third overall in the NFL through three weeks.

The 3-0 start is only the third time in franchise history, and if Tennessee can defeat the Minnesota Vikings at home Sunday, it would mark the first time in team history the club has started 4-0.

The last time the team was 3-0 was in 1999, when the Titans made the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, and the 2008 version of the Titans is built in a remarkably similar style.

Everything is spearheaded by a relentless defensive line that has 11 sacks in three games and is also largely responsible for the seven interceptions the Titans secondary already has. That ‘99 team finished plus-18 in turnover margin, and the ‘08 version is already plus-3 through three games with eight takeaways.

"I think the expectations on our defensive unit are set high," linebacker David Thornton said. "We want to go out and play solid football. We still haven't played our best game yet. ... Obviously, there are areas we must improve, but you can definitely see that we're headed in the right direction. If we keep everyone healthy, and everyone stays hungry and focused, we should be OK."

The most important stat, however, has nothing to do with any statistical ranking. The Titans gave up 12 points to the Houston Texans on Sunday, and that is the most any team has scored thus far. Through three weeks, Tennessee has yielded just 29 total points, or 9.7 points per game.

That combined with an offense that, while still plodding and methodical at times, has scored touchdowns on seven of eight red-zone trips this season, best in the NFL after finishing last in red-zone efficiency a year ago.

NOTES

  • QB Kerry Collins won't light up any fantasy leagues, but his veteran presence is enough for what the Titans offense needs. He was 14 of 26 for 189 yards on Sunday against Houston, including a touchdown pass to Bo Scaife. Most importantly, he quickly bounced back after his first pass of the game was picked off by the Texans' Jacques Reeves. Collins also had scrambles of 17 and 12 yards, catching the Texans completely off guard.

  • RB Chris Johnson, at first glance, seemingly had a down game Sunday against Houston, perhaps because his longest run was only 14 yards. But he still rushed for 74 yards on 16 carries and was part of a 154-yard rushing day for Tennessee.

  • RB LenDale White's rushing numbers are down from a year ago, because he now splits the carries with Chris Johnson, but he has proven productive in the red zone, adding two more touchdowns Sunday, giving him four for the season.

  • TE Alge Crumpler is slowly beginning to make more of an impact in the passing game, as he had two catches for 26 yards Sunday. For the season, he has five catches for 46 yards.

  • TE Bo Scaife has perhaps benefited most from Alge Crumpler's presence. The Titans run a lot of two tight end sets, and Scaife leads the team with 10 catches for 137 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown reception Sunday.

  • LT Michael Roos held Houston's Mario Williams without a sack on Sunday, as the Titans offensive line kept Kerry Collins clean. Roos gets another challenge this week from Minnesota's Jared Allen, whom he faced last year when Allen was with the Kansas City Chiefs.

  • WR Justin Gage missed Sunday's game with a groin injury, and his status for this week is not yet known.

  • WR Justin McCareins was Tennessee's leading receiver Sunday against the Texans with four catches for 90 yards. That included a 37-yard gain where it appeared he might have been out of bounds on the play. However, the Titans hurried to the line of scrimmage to prevent a replay challenge.

  • WR Brandon Jones filled in for Justin Gage Sunday, but was not much of a factor in the passing game with two catches for 21 yards.

  • CB Nick Harper left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter with a quadriceps injury. Harper had missed last Wednesday's practice with a sore ankle.

  • CB Eric King filled in capably off the bench, with a pass breakup in the end zone against Andre Davis and a tackle of Kevin Walter for a one-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1.

  • CB Cortland Finnegan's franchise-record 99-yard interception return for a touchdown gives him four picks for the season. He replaced a suspended Adam "Pacman" Jones last year in the starting lineup and has as many interceptions this season as Jones did in his Titans career.


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