LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -With a lockdown defense and whiplash-inducing running game, the Tennessee Titans could point to a long list of reasons to boast without even mentioning their record.
Which, by the way, is perfect.
Not only are the Titans 8-0 and four games ahead in the AFC South heading into their game at Chicago on Sunday, they have a chance to set a franchise record with their 12th straight regular-season win. And the Bears might be without injured quarterback Kyle Orton.
Advantage, Tennessee?
Maybe. But each week outsiders insist the Titans will lose. And the AFC South leaders keep proving them wrong.
To that, quarterback Kerry Collins said: ``I really don't care what people say.''
consecutive wins set by the 1993 Houston Oilers.
Now, they're facing a team that could be without two key starters.
The Bears lost safety Mike Brown to a right calf injury during last week's 27-23 win over Detroit and, moments later, saw Orton go down with a sprained right ankle. Brown walked to the locker room with just over a minute left in the first half, and if that sight didn't send a shiver through Soldier Field, this sight did: Orton getting carted off the field after Cory Redding tackled him and Dewayne White fell on him.
Reports had him missing three to four weeks with a high ankle sprain, but Orton wouldn't rule out playing against Tennessee even though the odds seemed slim.
While he was holding out hope, Rex Grossman was preparing to make his first start after losing a preseason competition.
``I definitely miss playing, miss being out there,'' Grossman said. ``I'll be able to enjoy it a little bit more and maybe not take it for granted, but for the most part, I just want to go out there and have a good game and lead our team to victory.''
Booed often for erratic play the past few seasons, Grossman heard it from the crowd as soon as he stepped on the field in the second half. That angered linebacker Brian Urlacher and led to a plea from coach Lovie Smith for ``positive reinforcement'' from the fans.
ning touchdown in the fourth, Grossman was a shaky 9-for-19 with 58 yards and an interception.
For those seeking positives, here are a few: Grossman is 19-11 as a starter, played at a Pro Bowl level early in 2006 and helped Chicago reach the Super Bowl that year.
``He's definitely going to be dangerous,'' Titans middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. ``Anytime you get demoted and you have an opportunity to get back in there again, you're playing with a chip on your shoulder. He knows that the fans and everybody are out there watching him. He's a talented quarterback. Anytime you can lead a team to a Super Bowl, you're doing right. He's still a good football player and he's definitely a deadly threat in getting guys open downfield and hitting his receivers.''
Or, as Bears center Olin Kreutz put it: ``Rex is a big luxury to have.''
Although the gunslinging Grossman brings the long ball threat, he also has a history of making poor decisions, particularly when he's under pressure. He has more interceptions (34) than touchdowns (32) in his career, and the Titans have no shortage of ballhawks in their secondary.
Tennessee and Green Bay are tops in the NFL with 13 interceptions, and cornerback Cortland Finnegan and free safety Michael Griffin are in a six-way tie for the league lead with four. Right behind them is strong safety Chris Hope with three.
``They've definitely made some plays (where) they've caused the interception, and they've had a couple that have been given to them. ... For the most part, they're quick, athletic and definitely jump to the plays. I might be able to take advantage of that as well.''
Generally, the Titans have been the ones taking advantage this season.
They are holding opponents to a league-low 12.9 points per game and are outscoring them by an average of 12 points, second in the NFL. They lead the league with a plus-10 turnover margin and no team has allowed fewer sacks (four).
And when they run the ball, they have two good options in LenDale White and speedy rookie Chris Johnson.
While White leads the NFL with 10 touchdowns rushing and ripped off a 54-yard run, Johnson is tops among rookies and fourth overall with 715 yards. The Bears considered drafting him but took left tackle Chris Williams with the 14th overall pick and wound up with Matt Forte in the second round after Johnson went to Tennessee at No. 24.
``We've played some good (tandems),'' nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek said. ``But they've got to be at the top, just the way they've performed all season. Just a very big challenge for us up front.''
It's a big challenge, period.
protecting him, breaking through won't be easy.
And yet, this might be the week the Titans finally lose. After all, the pressure is on them to maintain this streak, right?
``I don't think there's any pressure,'' said linebacker Keith Bulluck, whose string of 105 games is in jeopardy after he cracked cartilage in his ribs near his chest. ``I don't know what pressures this team would have. We have eight wins so far out of eight games. The only pressure is to keep playing consistently. I don't see our consistency dropping off just because we're trying to be one of the better teams in the NFL.
``The first half is down. There's still eight more games to play. I don't think we feel any pressure at all.''
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