Albert Haynesworth missed his first game of the 2007 season Sunday, and the Tennessee Titans definitely missed him.
Haynesworth, who had a career-high three sacks last week against Carolina, sat out with a right hamstring injury in Sunday’s 28-13 loss to Jacksonville, and his absence clearly showed.
Randy Starks started in place of Haynesworth, who did not practice all week, and finished with six total tackles. But where Haynesworth was most missed was in the fact that the Jaguars rolled up 166 yards on the ground, the highest total against Tennessee this season.
“Albert is one of the best players on our defense, so anytime one of our best players isn’t there, it’s going to affect the game,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “I think the guys that played did well, but Jacksonville definitely made some plays. The two running backs kept the ball and the drives alive on third down. We didn’t play good third-down defense at all.”
It also affected the Tennessee pass rush, as a week after sacking David Carr seven times, the Titans were only able to get to Quinn Gray once in Sunday’s setback.
“It’s a big difference,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “Albert is a dominant player. He’s such a force — he draws double teams in the run game and we missed him today.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Haynesworth was not close to being a go on Sunday.
“Had we been fortunate enough to have Albert at full speed and 100 percent, I think he would have made a difference,” Fisher said. “But today was a day that we had to call on our depth and probably one of the tougher challenges from that standpoint.”
INJURIES: The Titans lost two players with concussions on Sunday, as wide receiver Brandon Jones left the game in the fourth quarter, and cornerback Nick Harper went out in the second half as well.
Running back LenDale White, whose three consecutive 100-yard games streak ended with a thud, suffered a knee injury in the game. He finished with just 12 yards Sunday.
Offensive tackle David Stewart suffered an ankle injury.
JUGGLING ACT: Justin Gage, who had seven catches for 90 yards, had an acrobatic touchdown catch in which the ball was knocked free and he was able to reach for it while laying on the ground for Tennessee’s only touchdown.
“Vince [Young] did a great job of looking the backside safety off and giving me a chance to beat the cornerback one-on-one,” Gage said. “He put that ball where it needed to be, and by that point, I was staying focused on staying with the ball and catching it.”
Gage said he would have relished the chance in the first half for the Titans to have taken a shot at the end zone from the 19 with 12 seconds to play, instead of opting for Rob Bironas’ field goal.
“Absolutely. Being a receiver, I want to always want to go to the end zone. That’s one of the main things you want to do, but coach Fisher made a decision and we stuck behind him 100 percent,” Gage said.
HAT TRICK: Defensive tackle Tony Brown was flagged for three offsides penalties in Sunday’s game.
“That was my mistake. I’m fired up. That’s just how I am. I’m a grown man. People know I’m not going to quit. I look at it as if I’m going to fight hard, no matter what,” Brown said.