|No Haynesworth, no defense for exposed Titans|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 21 November 2007 14:09|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -It's time for the real Tennessee Titans defense to step forward.|
Is it the unit that gave up more yards than any other team in the NFL last year? Or is it the one that is No. 4 overall this season?
Watching the Titans lose two straight games and give up 166 yards rushing to Jacksonville and at Denver on Monday night has been like a trip back to 2006.
``I can definitely tell you the last couple of weeks we played like the defense from last year,'' Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said Wednesday.
He predicts a turnaround, even if tackle Albert Haynesworth has to miss a third straight game Sunday when the Titans (6-4) visit Cincinnati (3-7).
``For the simple fact that we want to be a Top 10 defense so we would have a little bit of muscle and a little bit of force to be a playoff team and a contender. The last two weeks, we haven't played like that,'' Bulluck said. ``To get back to what we want to do, we have to get back to playing good defense.''
Tennessee ranked second overall in yards allowed and was the toughest against the run only two weeks ago. Now the Titans have dropped to fourth against the run and are giving up 278.7 yards overall. The Titans will be tested even more Sunday by an offense averaging 354.7 yards per game.
Bulluck called the Bengals one of the league's most powerful offenses, which will force the Titans to play well.
``We kind of have to get back on track. If we get Albert back, that's great. If we don't, guys that are filling in, plugging in, we have a job to do and we have to get it done,'' the linebacker said.
That's easier said than done.
Haynesworth strained his right hamstring chasing David Carr on Nov. 4. He was able to take part in an hourlong walkthrough Wednesday but would not have practiced in a regular session.
Haynesworth, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound tackle in the final year of his contract is having the season of his pro career. He ranked second in total tackles with 56, including five for losses, through the last game he played. He also has 17 quarterback pressures, second only to Antwan Odom's 18.
Cincinnati offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said they look substantially different without Haynesworth..
``The last two weeks he hasn't played, people have run the ball on them with much greater success,'' Bratkowski said. ``When he's in there, he's a difference maker. He's probably the most disruptive interior lineman in the league right now.''
Carson Palmer, who has been sacked 14 times this season, wouldn't mind if Haynesworth sits out one more game.
``He's virtually been unblockable. He is as dominant a guy as I've seen on the defensive line since I can remember,'' Palmer said. ``He may not make every single play, whether they're running away from them or he's getting double-teamed, but he's throwing people out of the way.''
The Titans have held opponents to 14 or fewer points in six games this season, but coach Jeff Fisher wouldn't say how many tackles they missed in their 34-20 loss at Denver on Monday night.
The offense, which has been carried by the defense and kicker Rob Bironas most of this season, helped out by holding the ball for more than 35 minutes. The defense played without cornerback Nick Harper, who has been a physical presence in the run defense.
``When Albert's in there, everybody else plays better, because he's in there and he gets a lot of attention. We need to get him back as quickly as we can,'' Fisher said.
Notes: The Titans, who returned to Nashville early Tuesday morning, only went through a light walkthrough indoors Wednesday. Right guard Benji Olson, deactivated in Denver for a sore back, did not practice and won't practice for most of this week to rest his back. Fisher said he likely will be a game-time decision. ``He's a little uncomfortable right now,'' Fisher said. ... Fullback Ahmard Hall was cleared to return to practice and was limited Wednesday as he returns from a broken left forearm. ... Right tackle David Stewart (ankle) was limited.
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
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