NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth squared up to tackle Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Then he made a mistake.
He blinked his eyes.
And Tomlinson was gone.
``It's almost like he's on a different level when you're playing against him,'' Haynesworth said Wednesday. ``All the running backs you can chase down and get. He's just so quick if you blink, he's gone.''
The NFL's reigning MVP has played the Titans only twice, and he's hurt them as much as everyone else in the league. The Titans are trying to re-establish their suffocating run defense now that Haynesworth is back from an injured hamstring, and they know they must be at their best Sunday.
``We're going to play our defense, and we have to play great defense,'' linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
That's something the Titans (7-5) have done very well this season. They ranked first in the NFL against the run with Haynesworth, allowing 66 yards rushing a game through the first eight weeks. Then he strained his right hamstring chasing David Carr on Nov. 4.
Without him, his teammates missed tackles and assignments. They gave up 166, 166 and 148 yards rushing in the three games he missed - all losses.
The Titans had Haynesworth back in last week's 28-20 win against Houston, and they improved with him drawing double-teams and making five tackles. Ron Dayne had 74 yards in the first half only to finish with 86, as the Titans held Houston to 119 yards rushing.
Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said only 46 of that came after the Texans' opening drive.
``We tackled particularly well. They communicated well and they played hard. They prepared well and made plays, which was good,'' Fisher said.
Told the Titans estimated Haynesworth's health at 80 percent in that game, San Diego coach Norv Turner said he was afraid of that.
``He looked pretty good to me. He played awfully well,'' Turner said.
Tomlinson also has noticed Haynesworth, the six-year veteran.
``He's one of the best defensive tackles in the game. He's one of the most dominant. Obviously, when he's in there, you really have to pay attention, and you have to try to double-team him,'' Tomlinson said.
Stopping Dayne isn't like chasing Tomlinson, who had 177 yards rushing in Kansas City last week. Tomlinson had 147 yards on 17 carries against Tennessee in 2004 and totaled 122 yards on 26 touches in a 40-7 rout of the Titans last season.
``He brings more to the table than the back that we played last week,'' Bulluck said.
``It is an NFL record holder. He's just been special since he's been in this league. It's a matter of preparation and going out there on Sunday. You can't put anymore into it because if you psych yourself out, that's what you're going to do on Sunday is psych yourself out.''
Run defense is the Titans' specialty under Fisher. They are 103-65 since 1995 when not allowing a 100-yard rusher, a success rate that plummets to 8-28 in the 36 games they did. And they are even better at home.
The Titans have allowed only eight 100-yard rushers through 70 regular season games since moving into LP Field, and Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew was the last on Nov. 11, which was the first game Haynesworth missed.
Tomlinson comes in Sunday looking for the 42nd 100-yard game of his career, and the Chargers are 32-9 in those games.
Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said defending the Chargers (7-5) starts and stops with Tomlinson. Discipline, each defender sticking to his own assignment, will be key.
``Some backs you can, if they're quick or fast, you can make them run inside,'' Vanden Bosch said. ``You can't shut down one thing that LaDainian does and have success because he's going to beat you another way.''
Haynesworth said he definitely won't blink and miss Tomlinson this time, not with his teammates ready to help.
``I feel like I'm better, so yeah, I'll definitely get him,'' Haynesworth said.

Recent NFL Discussions

SUPER BOWL PLAY on Mon, Feb 2017 by MichaelF12
2017 NFL Draft Props on Fri, Feb 2017 by Blade
Handicapping Week 1 on Fri, Feb 2017 by Blade
Blade what time do you get up on Thu, Feb 2017 by Blade
VIR- V TECH GAME on Sun, Feb 2017 by Timmy1961
Advertisement

Top NFL Public Bets

NFL Top Stories

Thumbnail Krik Cousins Next Team Prop Odds Which team will Kirk Cousins be playing for in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL regular season?
Thumbnail Tony Romo Next Team Prop Odds Which team will Tony Romo play for when the 2017 NFL regular season begins? Oddsmakers have weighed in.
Thumbnail Taylor could be fit in Cleveland Could current Bills Tyrod Taylor be a fit for the quarterback-needy Browns next season?
Thumbnail Palmer, Fitz both returning for Cards The Arizona Cardinals will have their starting quarterback back for 2017, as Carson Palmer confirmed he will return to play next season.
Thumbnail AFC Championship Odds In no surprise, the Patriots are favored to win the 2018 AFC Conference Championship over the Steelers and the rest of the field.

NFL Team Pages