It is not necessarily a big number within the realm of a 16-gme NFL schedule, but for the Tennessee Titans it represents hope, possibility and balance.
The Titans have a chance when they host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday (noon, CBS) to run their current win streak to three games. If they do so, they will even their record at 4-4, claim sole possession of second place in the AFC South and put themselves in the thick — and it’s really thick — of the AFC playoff chase.
It doesn’t sound like much, except that the way this season started three wins total seemed a lofty goal. Plus, three straight victories actually comprise a significant streak in the NFL.
Tennessee won three in a row just once last season, its first under coach Mike Munchak. That was more than a year ago, in Weeks 2-4. By comparison, Jeff Fisher did not win three straight until his second full season as coach (1996) and did not win four in a row until the final four contests of 1999, when the team rolled into the playoffs and ultimately into Super Bowl XXXIV.
Most important, even when things have gone really sour under Munchak (see the first five weeks of this season) the Titans never have lost three in a row. Thus, a three-game win streak figures to weigh heavily in their favor.
“This is going to be a big-time game for us to come in here and get a division win, and get back to 4-4, but it’s not going to be easy to do,” Munchak said. “Indianapolis is playing very well, won a big game [Sunday] for them, beat Green Bay a couple of weeks ago, so they’re obviously kind of in the same position we’re in.”
Not exactly. The Colts have alternated wins and losses this season. They come into this one fresh off a 17-13 victory over Cleveland.
They are looking for their first streak of any kind — a win streak, albeit a relatively modest one in comparison to Tennessee’s aim.
“You never want to lose two in a row,” interim Colts coach Bruce Arians said. “We need to start stacking some chips and learn how to win on the road so we can do that and start putting some together. Big challenge this week at Tennessee. Hard place to go play. They’re starting to rebound and it looks like they’re heading in the right direction so it’ll be a really good challenge for us.”
A look at other notable numbers in relation to Sunday’s contest, with a particular emphasis on rookies involved in the passing game:
3 – 300-yard passing games by Colts’ rookie quarterback Andrew Luck in his first six games. He already is the third rookie in NFL history to have that many in a season, Cam Newton had three in 2011 and former Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning set the record with four in 1998.
19 – receptions by Indianapolis tight end Coby Fleener, the most among all rookie tight ends. Second among all rookie tight ends is Indianapolis’ Dwayne Allen with 13. No other rookie tight end has more than three.
25 – receptions by Indianapolis wide receiver Donnie Avery. He is second on the team to long-time Colts receiver Reggie Wayne (47) and has more than every Tennessee wide receiver except one. The Titans signed Avery three weeks into last season, but he was active for just seven games and finished with just three receptions.
36 – receptions by Tennessee’s first-round pick Kendall Wright, the most among all rookies, regardless of position. No other rookie wideout has even half as many receptions thus far.
80 – yards, the career-long gain for Colts running back Donald Brown. That was Dec. 18, 2011, and finished off Indianapolis’ 27-13 victory over Tennessee, a game many Titans pointed to as a reason they failed to make the playoffs last season. The run also accounted for almost half of Brown’s career-high 161 yards in that contest.
81 – yards, Chris Johnson’s second touchdown run Sunday at Buffalo. It was the fourth time in his career he scored on a run of 80 yards or more, which made him the NFL’s all-time leader in that regard. Four others — Barry Sanders, Ahman Green, Hugh McElhinney and O.J. Simpson — had three. Johnson’s longest run in seven career games against Indianapolis is 37 yards (Dec. 9, 2010, at LP Field).
113 – receiving yards by Indianapolis rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. He was the 13th wide receiver taken in the 2012 draft (the 92nd overall pick) but is the only first-year receiver with a 100-yard game thus far this season. Wright’s season-high is 71 yards on Oct. 11 against Pittsburgh.