The Tennessee Titans found most of the parts to their tattered and torn secondary on Sunday, and it showed in helping them to a 30-13 victory over Jacksonville.
The Titans welcomed back both Cortland Finnegan (hamstring) and Vincent Fuller (broken forearm) from injuries, as both played for the first time since Sept. 27.
Also, the addition of veteran Rod Hood paid dividends as well, as he had one of two Titans interceptions as the defense held the Jaguars to just 139 yards passing Sunday. Not bad for the league’s last-rated pass defense and its next-to-last rated overall unit.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher had referred to Fuller as the “glue that holds things together in the nickel package,” but also got help from both corners.
Finnegan moved from his normal right side of the formation over to the left side, usually manned by injured Nick Harper, and said he hopes the move might be a permanent one. His interception of Garrard in the fourth quarter snuffed out Jacksonville’s last real comeback attempt in the game.
“There are bumps along the road, but I enjoy it because that’s the quarterback’s throwing arm, most of the time, and I look forward to it,” Finnegan said of swapping sides.
As for Hood, three weeks ago, he was on the street, having been cut by both Cleveland and Chicago in preseason. That was a major freefall for a cornerback who started in last year’s Super Bowl for the Arizona Cardinals.
Whatever didn’t work out with the Browns or Bears, Hood proved to be a godsend for a Tennessee team that was down to playing the untested likes of Ryan Mouton, Jason McCourty and Cary Williams over the past few games.
“It’s awesome,” Hood said of his contribution. “It’s awesome just to be able to come on a team and to help this team win.
“Being on good teams I could tell this is a good team and they’re ready to turn this thing around.”
Hood played a part in the turnaround, as his presence, plus the return of Finnegan and Fuller allowed the Titans to be able to blitz more, knowing veteran defensive backs could carry out their assignments without major breakdowns.
“Having the difficulty we had in the first game against them, we felt like if we got Cort back and Rod with his experience, we felt like we needed to challenge their receivers,” Fisher said. “We felt like we were a little soft in the first game against them. Rod’s done it before. He understands formations and routes and those kinds of things. His experience just paid off for us yesterday.”
Finnegan said being back and the secondary having more experience made for an improved showing on Sunday in the execution of the defensive game plan.
“The scheme, it’s been there all seven games, but we’ve just got to go out and execute. And we really showed we can execute,” Finnegan said.
The Titans escaped Sunday’s game injury-free, but still have some players who were inactive this past week whose status could be in doubt again this week.
Running back Javon Ringer was out with a back injury, while Harper continues to recover from a broken forearm. Tackle Mike Otto was out with a knee injury.
“Ringer, we’ll monitor him throughout the week to see how he’s doing,” Fisher said. “Mike Otto is on the mend as well. Nick practiced, so he’ll be close. As far as the game is concerned, it went very well for us.”
Kicker Rob Bironas has now made 10 consecutive field goals after missing his first kick of the season and having his second one blocked.
The most remarkable part of that is that Bironas has used three different holders this season as the Titans have played musical punters. His regular holder, Craig Hentrich, is on injured reserve with a calf injury.
The Titans then signed Reggie Hodges, who was ineffective in four games, averaging only 39.5 yards per punt. He was let go when the Titans claimed Brett Kern off waivers last week. Kern also inherited the holding duties as he was picked up from Denver.
“I think that shows his maturity and I think that shows that we’ve done a good job bringing in guys that can hold. Brett’s a fine holder,” Fisher said. “He is, I think Kenny’s (Amato) doing a good job getting the ball back. We’re spending a lot of time on it on the practice field. Rob knows when it’s on the ground and where it needs to be, he needs to put it through the uprights and he has been doing so.”
Still banged up
Jason Jones leads the Titans with four sacks this season, and has can make a difference with the interior pass rush, if he can get past a nagging shoulder injury that has already cost him two games this year.
Jones had one of four Titans sacks on Sunday against Jaguars quarterbacks, but is still bothered by the injury.
“I don’t know if he’s back yet. He’s trying but he won’t tell you,” Fisher said. “He had 30 snaps yesterday and was efficient. He’s a good inside rusher. He stays alive, he can flatten out and pursue, close ground quickly.”
In talking about opposing defenses trying to imitate Chris Johnson’s speed in game planning against the Titans, Fisher talked about a scheme that an unnamed he was part of did in preparing for former Detroit Lions star Barry Sanders.
“You can’t anticipate the speed. You can’t simulate the speed,” Fisher said. “It was like that when you were preparing for Barry Sanders. You can’t simulate his change of direction, his quickness and his movement on the practice field. Teams tried to do all kinds of things.
“I remember one team in particular brought a chicken out on the field and let the defense chase the chicken around, just desperately trying to simulate the speed and the quickness. That’s the way it is with Chris.”
Asked to elaborate further on the chicken caper, Fisher said, “It wasn’t my idea. And it didn’t work. It just stood there and they picked it up. And we took it back to the farm by the way.”
Fisher said Vince Young’s efforts at quarterback on Sunday showed the learned something during his time on the sidelines between starts. Young was 15 of 18 for 125 yards and one TD in his first start since Sept. 7, 2008.
“First off, I think this was the first start where he’s not had a sack or an interception. I think that shows, we’re hoping that that shows, that he’s learned from this experience,” Fisher said. “He’s learned to just take what’s there, take the check-down, get rid of the ball or take off when it’s time to go take off.
"So, we said all along that he’s developing. Even though we were watching Kerry (Collins), Vince was developing. I’m hopeful that the work he’s put in will translate over to success in the game.”