Titans look to stop 3-game skid with Young, return of Haynesworth Print
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Thursday, 29 November 2007 14:43
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 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -The Tennessee Titans held a players-only meeting the last time they were mired in a skid, losing four straight to open the 2006 season.
It worked. They won eight of their next 12, missing the playoffs by one game.
Now stuck in a three-game slide that has the Titans (6-5) trailing Cleveland for the AFC's final wild-card berth, nobody wants another gabfest.
``It's nothing really we need to say,'' Titans quarterback Vince Young said. ``Just get the job done. That's what we've been saying all week. Just finish.''
Any cushion from their 6-2 start is gone. Forget playing for the AFC South title. The Titans are trying to stay out of the South cellar. Luckily, division rival Houston (5-6) comes to town Sunday having lost nine of the 11 games in this series.
The Texans want to join the playoff talk, having won two straight before last week's 27-17 loss at Cleveland. That's new for this franchise in December, but guard Fred Weary wants the Texans to focus on divisional games since they haven't beaten an AFC South team this season.
``Instead of talking about playoffs, that's the point we need to start making - and the point to do is win the division game. We play them twice a year and there's no reason why we shouldn't win those games,'' Weary said.
The Texans, whose lone win in Nashville was in 2004, have other motivation. In the last game, the Texans took the lead with 29 fourth-quarter points before Tennessee pulled out a 38-36 win on Rob Bironas' NFL-record eighth field goal.
``It was a wild football game,'' Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. ``It seems like the last three times we've gotten together, there have been some crazy football games.''
Young didn't play that day for the Titans, missing his chance to face the hometown team he beat twice as a rookie. His family will be in Nashville for a belated Thanksgiving, but Young insists he's wants to help the Titans reach the playoffs, not show up the team that bypassed him in the draft.
``We came too far to try to let our season go down the drain, all this hard work we've been doing ... You don't want that to go down the drain,'' he said.
The Titans may get a big boost from some healing players.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth missed three games with an injured right hamstring, and Tennessee lost each while giving up an average of 160 yards rushing. The Titans allowed a season-worst 426 yards of offense in a 35-6 loss in Cincinnati last week.
His absence wasn't their only problem defensively. They have missed tackles and played sloppy in coverage. But Haynesworth's strength is stopping the run and collapsing the pocket.
Kubiak calls Haynesworth the NFL's best inside player this season. Texans right tackle Eric Winston said everyone knows the Titans haven't been the same without Haynesworth, who has a career-high five sacks.
``With him in there, they're going to be able to get back to what they were doing good before they lost him, and they're going to be tough,'' Winston said. ``They always are. They play a physical brand of football and we're going to have to take it to them.''
Fullback Ahmard Hall also should return for the Titans. He hasn't played since Oct. 21, when he broke his left forearm in Houston, and could help jump-start a struggling run offense. LenDale White has only 81 yards rushing in this skid because the Titans have fallen behind in each loss, forced to throw instead of run.
``When he stays on the field and we're calling runs, if you call enough of them, he's going to be productive,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub was knocked out of the first meeting by Haynesworth. He's healthy again and also will have receiver Andre Johnson for an offense averaging 347.1 yards a game.
``He's one of the few players in the league that can, when he gets the ball in his hands, he can go the distance,'' Fisher said.
Only six NFL teams have won more games than Fisher's team during the month of December since 1995, and they went 4-1 down the stretch in 2006. The Titans want one win to jump-start another roll, and having Young on the field against Houston could be key.
``He wants to get this thing turned around just as much as everyone else, and it's extra incentive that we are playing Houston, his hometown team, and he didn't get to play last time,'' Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
``So I think he's definitely looking forward to this game, as we all are.''
 

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