|Titans can't afford another loss against a very familiar team|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 23 November 2007 10:01|
So many of his memories involve the Cincinnati Bengals.
Like that surreal game in 1995, when sore-shouldered Chris Chandler went 23-of-26 while leading the Houston Oilers to a win. Or later that year in the rematch, when Carl Pickens set Cincinnati's single-season record for touchdown catches.
Or that historic Thursday night game in December 1997, when Corey Dillon broke Jim Brown's rookie rushing record against the team then known as the Tennessee Oilers.
``There were always some great games,'' said Fisher, now in his 13th full season as head coach. ``Late yesterday, I was kind of reflecting on some of those games: the Corey Dillon day, and Pickens and Jeff Blake and all those great contests we had.''
A little more history could be made Sunday when the Titans (6-4) visit town for the first time in five years, desperately needing to beat the team that knows them better than anyone else.
The Bengals (3-7) used to play them twice a year when they were division mates. Their 71st game on Sunday will be the most that Tennessee has played against any other team. So far, the Oilers/Titans have gotten the better of it, going 38-31-1.
They really need to get this one, too.
Consecutive losses to Jacksonville and Monday night in Denver have left the Titans barely clinging to one of the AFC wild-card berths. They're still in good shape to make a playoff run, but simply cannot afford to fall to a Bengals team that has lost its bearings.
``We have time,'' linebacker Keith Bulluck said. ``We built a good cushion starting the first half off 6-2. That cushion is starting to shrink.''
So is there no sense of serenity.
``It's crushing to us,'' quarterback Vince Young said of the back-to-back losses. ``To us how we started the season, we should not be in this particular predicament of losing.''
They haven't look like themselves the last two weeks.
The 6-2 start was predicated largely upon the defense, which was one of the league's best. No opponent ran for 100 yards in those first eight games.
With dominating defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth sidelined the last two weeks by a strained right hamstring, the Jaguars and Broncos each ran for 166 yards, leaving the defense looking very vulnerable.
It's uncertain whether Haynesworth will be ready for Cincinnati.
``I hope he's not,'' Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said. ``He's been unblockable. Really, if you sit down and watch him, he might not make every single play, but he's not blocked.''
The Titans will be without rookie running back Chris Henry, who has started serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Tennessee also has some concerns about Young, who bruised his right thigh during the loss in Denver but is expected to play.
How well he runs could well decide the game. The Bengals have one of the league's worst defenses and have struggled to contain quarterbacks who can move.
``I like to keep the defense on the edge of their seat,'' said Young, who threw for a career-high 305 yards and ran for a season-high 74 against Denver. ``They never know what I'm about to do once the play is called.''
Another big day by Young could push the Bengals over the edge.
They've had only one winning season since 1990, taking the AFC North title in 2005 under coach Marvin Lewis. One more loss will ensure them of no better than their fourth 8-8 finish in Lewis' five seasons.
A franchise that was once synonymous with losing has become the measure of mediocrity.
``It's tough,'' defensive captain John Thornton said. ``We've been preparing well every week. Things haven't gone our way, but during the week we're fine. We don't have anybody with their heads down saying, 'We're out of it.'''
Their best-known player isn't saying anything these days.
Chad Johnson has a chance to set Bengals history on Sunday. He's five catches from Pickens' club record of 530 career receptions. He's also working on the longest streak of his career without talking about himself.
Stung by suggestions the Bengals would be better off without his look-at-me antics, Johnson has mostly kept to himself for the last four weeks. He hasn't gotten into the end zone, either. Johnson hasn't scored a touchdown since the second game of the season, when he dived into the Dawg Pound in Cleveland to celebrate.
The problems go much deeper, of course. Right tackle Willie Anderson suggested the Bengals ran into problems when they became enamored of their image of a high-tech passing team and got away from the hard-nosed mentality that took them to the playoffs.
``We weren't trying to be glamorous because we couldn't afford to,'' Anderson said. ``I think we have to get back to that mold.''
AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville contributed to this report.