Young achieves first goal: Taking Titans back to playoffs Print
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Tuesday, 01 January 2008 01:47
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 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Vince Young set his NFL goals almost immediately upon receiving the call from the Tennessee Titans alerting him they were drafting him. At the top? Take the Titans back to the playoffs.
That is the standard set by Steve McNair, Young's mentor and the last quarterback to take Tennessee to the playoffs.
``I'm just trying to fill in Pop's shoes right now,'' Young said.
He did it in his second NFL season, even if the Titans (10-6) had to squeak into the AFC's final wild-card slot over Cleveland by virtue of the third tiebreaker with a better record against common opponents.
Young beat McNair to the playoffs by three years, and now the still rebuilding Titans are preparing to visit San Diego (11-5) on Sunday in their first playoff game since a 17-14 divisional loss in New England on Jan. 10, 2004.
Only seven Titans still remain on the roster from that game for a franchise that wound up in a salary cap crunch that forced McNair's trade to Baltimore in June 2006, keeping him from ever sharing the same sideline with Young.
They also still have coach Jeff Fisher in his fifth playoff berth in nine seasons. He said the key was rebounding from three straight losses to finish with four victories in the final five games - the lone loss in that stretch to San Diego, 23-17 in overtime on Dec. 9.
``That's something that we can build on,'' Fisher said Monday. ``The key here is not to all of a sudden take a deep breath, throw your arms up in the air and say we made it. You expect to make it every year. We made it. Now we expect to do something about it.''
The Titans reached the 2000 Super Bowl in their first playoff appearance with McNair as a wild card. Only right guard Benji Olson and punter Craig Hentrich are left from that team.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said the rebuilding isn't done yet.
``We're still not there,'' he said.
But beating Indianapolis, well mostly the Colts' backups, 16-10 on Sunday night capped their first winning record since 2003. They won with Young on the bench at the end, symbolic of how the 2006 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year hasn't had to carry the Titans this season.
The Titans are in the postseason thanks to a physical running game, a dependable kicker and an aggressive defense that jumped from last in the NFL in yards allowed in 2006 to fifth in 2007.
The formula was on perfect display in Indianapolis. The Titans held the ball for nearly 36 minutes, won with three field goals by Pro Bowl kicker Rob Bironas, forced a turnover and sacked the quarterback - Jim Sorgi, not Peyton Manning - twice.
``It definitely wasn't pretty, but that's just how we have fought all year,'' eight-year veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
``We're a scrappy, young team, definitely one of the future teams in the NFL. It just shows what we're about. We claw, we scrap, we fight and we're always in it 'til the end. We never count ourselves out. That style got us into the playoffs.''
Young hurt his right quadriceps muscle, something that kept him out of an Oct. 21 win at Houston and sent him to the sideline Sunday night. If he starts, he would become the youngest quarterback in franchise history to start a playoff game at 24 years 233 days.
How quickly he adapts will determine how far the Titans go. Young's experience with the postseason is limited to college bowl games like Texas' national championship victory over Southern California in January 2006.
``Just talking to the veteran guys, they keep saying it's one of the greatest feelings ever,'' Young said. ``The tempo, the fans, the people. It's like a different edge to the game. I'm just looking forward to being a part of it. I'm just happy.''
Young can talk to several teammates to learn what to expect. The Titans have added at least 10 players with playoff and even Super Bowl experience. Backup quarterback Kerry Collins took the New York Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl.
``Anything can happen,'' Collins said.
Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who will be making his first postseason appearance in his seventh NFL season, said it feels great.
``I knew this team was something special. I could feel it early in the year, and we just talked about it. A lot of these young guys haven't been in the playoffs. A lot of us old guys haven't either. It's extra special to me,'' Vanden Bosch said. ``Now we have to make the most of it. We can't be satisfied or happy with just being in. Now we're in the tournament. Now it's time to do something.''

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