Thursday, October 15, 2009

Patriots treating Titans as formidable opponent

Just in case you thought a Bill Belichick team was capable of looking past an 0-5 opponent, well, there's no worry of that.

"They're way better than 0-5, I'm telling you," Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "This team is way better than that, and that's one thing we're trying to stress around here. This was a playoff team last year. This was one of the toughest teams in the league last year, and for the most part, most of the guys came back.

"They have a great team, and we have to look past the 0-5 and actually look at what they're doing on film."

With any other opponent, comments like that might be dismissed as blowing smoke, yet another effort by a Belichick team to play up a less-than-formidable foe and an overcompensation for a desire not to provide bulletin-board material.

With the Titans, though, there's something there.

Jeff Fisher's team went 13-3 a year ago and brought back its two leading passers, its two leading running backs and three of their top four receivers. Four of the five offensive linemen who started for the Titans in their playoff loss to Baltimore a year ago returned -- and the fifth was supplanted by regular starting center Kevin Mawae, who missed that game with an injured elbow.

There's plenty left on the defensive side of the ball, too. Linebackers Keith Bulluck, David Thornton and Stephen Tulluch all have returned, and defensive backs Cortland Finnegan, Michael Griffin and Nick Harper all are back atop the Titans' depth chart. Defensive ends Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch likewise are back and set to wreak havoc on offensive tackles across the league.

Injuries, though, have decimated the defense that allowed fewest yards per snap last season than all but three NFL teams -- Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Finnegan (hamstring), Griffin (neck) and Harper (forearm) all missed practice on Wednesday with injuries.

Kearse, though apparently not injured, has all of three total tackles in four games so far this season -- and he butted heads with Fisher when he was deactivated last Sunday.

All of that -- on top of an overtime loss to Pittsburgh, a devastating fumble in the final minutes against Houston and a hard-fought loss to the New York Jets -- have made the Titans a desperate team. Five straight losses, in theory, still is a surmountable hurdle. Six losses might already be too many to qualify for the postseason.

"They basically came out and said, 'This week is going to make or break the season,'" Wilfork said. "Whatever it takes to win, they're going to try to win."

Is there something Belichick could do, one reporter asked, to ensure that his team doesn't overlook the Titans based on their record?

"I would just turn on the projector," Belichick said flatly, a stern expression on his face. "That’s all I would do -- just turn on the projector. I think anybody that would say that about the Titans obviously hasn’t seen them play. I don’t know how you could watch them on film and possibly think that unless you were sleeping while the film was rolling. I don’t know how you could possibly think that."

1 comment:

floydiansea said...

A lot has been said about "the best team to go 0-5." Pats are quite right to take them seriously. This isn't Detroit, after all.