Albert Haynesworth was emerging as a star defensive tackle when he suffered a right hamstring injury in Week 9. After losing three straight games without him, the Tennessee Titans are beginning to understand just how valuable Haynesworth had been.
The Titans hope to have Haynesworth back in the lineup to help their struggling defense as they try to climb back into the playoff picture by hosting the AFC South rival Houston Texans on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Tennessee –3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 42.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston +3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
The Titans (6-5) won six of their first eight games with Haynesworth in the lineup. In those contests, they had one of the league's best defenses, allowing just 66.0 rushing yards per game and holding each of their opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground.
After recording a career-high three sacks against Carolina on Nov. 4, however, Haynesworth strained his right hamstring late in the fourth quarter of Tennessee's 20-7 victory.
Without him, the Titans have given up 160.0 rushing yards during their three-game skid, which has dropped Tennessee one game behind Cleveland for the AFC's final wild-card berth.
After holding opponents to 15.5 points over the first eight games, Tennessee has allowed 32.3 in its last three.
Haynesworth made it through most of practice Wednesday, but said he could still feel the hamstring problem.
"We're getting better, definitely getting better," he said. "It's just a day-by-day thing."
While Haynesworth's absence is a logical reason for the Titans' defensive struggles, Haynesworth thinks the team's skid has more to do with its mindset than its personnel.
"I think it's the attitude. You watch the first eight games, you know we had a lot of attitude. Now we're just out there to be out there," Haynesworth said. "We just need the attitude back, whatever it takes."
Tennessee suffered its largest margin of defeat in more than a year last Sunday, falling 35-6 at Cincinnati. The Titans gave up a season-high 426 yards, and the 35 points were one shy of the most they've allowed this season.
"It's not a scheme thing. It's more a technique thing," end Kyle Vanden Bosch said of the continued defensive struggles. "We're not tackling well. We're just getting beat in a lot of different areas. It's not one thing we have to fix. It's a number of things."
The Titans' defensive problems have been compounded by a sloppy and inconsistent offense. After running back LenDale White recorded the first three 100-yard rushing games of his career in three straight wins, he's been held to a total of 81 during the three-game slide.
Meanwhile, Vince Young has had three of the four highest passing yardage totals of his career during the losing streak, but he's thrown just two touchdowns and five interceptions in those games.
After Sunday's loss, Young remained alone on the bench for seven minutes, pondering what's gone wrong with his club.
"Thoughts, man, just thoughts, trying to see what's going on, what's the problem, what we need to do to get back to where we need to be at," said Young, who has been playing through a bruised thigh and a strained ankle.
"Why is this all of a sudden happening to us, going back to that bad feeling that we had last year with getting our butt whooped."
The Titans, who moved from Houston before the 1997 season, will try to snap out of their funk against the Texans (5-6), who are hoping to get to .500 this late in a season for the first time in franchise history.
Houston is one win shy of its total from last season, and two away from matching the franchise record of seven, which it reached in 2004.
The Texans, though, blew a chance to get their sixth victory last week, when they lost 27-17 at Cleveland.
Houston couldn't take advantage of one of the league's worst defenses, compiling 314 yards - its lowest total since netting 254 in a loss against Indianapolis Sept. 23 - against a Cleveland team that allows a league-worst 397.9 per game.
"We put ourselves in a tough situation," said Matt Schaub, who threw two interceptions as the Texans committed three turnovers to give them a league-high 29. "The turnovers really hurt us. That's been our Achilles' heel all season. We just didn't make the plays. I threw a couple of interceptions and we didn't move the ball."
The Texans committed a season-high six turnovers to lose at home 38-36 in their first meeting with the Titans this season. Despite the giveaways, Houston scored more points against Tennessee than any other team this season.
However, the Titans played that game without Young, a Houston native, who was sidelined by a quadriceps strain. They hope having him Sunday can help them avoid another close call.
"We're at a point right now where we have to improve," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We have to be able to put this, whatever it is, behind us and go out and score points, have fun and enjoy the game, make plays and find a way to win."
The Titans have won nine of 11 against the Texans, including five straight. Each of their last four wins, though, have been decided by six points or fewer.
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
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