CHICAGO — The Tennessee Titans have waited nearly four years for Brandon Jones to display some consistency.
Over the past three weeks, that consistency might finally be starting to emerge.
Jones had a career-high eight catches for 82 yards in Sunday’s 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, and has 16 receptions the past three weeks. That gives him 27 catches for the season, which matches his career high, a total reached in two of his previous three seasons.
“I think Brandon has really stepped up his game this year and has really stepped it up the last few weeks. He had a big day today,” said quarterback Kerry Collins. “He had some big third-down catches for us. I think you can see is confidence building as the year goes on with the plays he makes.”
Likewise, Jones was quick to credit Collins with giving him lots of catchable throws.
“That’s our job. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Kerry is going to get it in there. We just had to help him out,” Jones said.
Asked if Jones has finally turned the corner, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger wants to see more of the consistency that has emerged over the past three weeks before entering his verdict.
“I don’t know; it’s Brandon. He had a great day today. He had some good catches and ran some good routes,” Heimerdinger said. “Brandon played real well. I’ve got to see which Brandon shows up next week, but he’s going back out there, and Brandon’s getting better.”
Getting better: The Titans maintained their four-game lead in the AFC South Sunday, but with Indianapolis winning at Pittsburgh, Tennessee now has a three-game edge for something even more important — home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
The Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and New York Jets are all now 6-3 and chasing the unbeaten Titans with seven games left in the regular season.
Keep away: The Titans were careful not to allow Bears return man Devin Hester to break a big play on them. Hester did manage one 41-yard kickoff return, but he was plenty bottled up on punt returns with a long runback of just 13 yards Sunday.
Titans punter Craig Hentrich averaged a net of 36.1 yards per punt and downed five kicks inside the Bears 20 with a long punt of 55 yards.
“High and short,” Hentrich said. “I figured if I could average 30-35 yards a punt and nothing bad happened, I think that was my goal, and I think we did that.”
Coach Jeff Fisher was pleased with Hentrich and the coverage team’s efforts.
“Craig did a nice job,” Fisher said. “Your heart is in your throat every time you’ve got to put the ball in the air to Devin.”
Injuries: Linebacker Keith Bulluck, who did not practice all week with cracked rib cartilage, played and was a standout on defense with 10 tackles, including nine solo stops.
Bulluck, who made his 106th straight start, will likely be on the same no-practice routine next week in preparation for Jacksonville.
“It’s probably unlikely that he practices next week. He’s very sore,” Fisher said.
Elsewhere, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch was shut down for the game with his groin injury.
As for injuries from the ballgame, Ahmard Hall left the game with a concussion as he was hammered by Bears linebacker Lance Briggs after a dropped pass in the second half. Quinton Ganther finished up at fullback.
Also, receiver Justin McCareins left the game with a head injury as well, while cornerback Nick Harper exited with an ankle injury.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was limited as he woke up feeling ill.
“I feel like I already played before I even stepped on the field. That’s why I asked Coach if he could keep an extra lineman up with Kevin [Vickerson],” said Haynesworth, who estimated he played about 20 plays Sunday. “He played well in my spot, because I didn’t feel too good at all. I was kind of out of it. I was on the bench most of the day. I’ll have to get myself better.”
Not the best: Despite being held to eight yards on 14 carries by a Bears defense that was sold out to stop the run, Chris Johnson said Chicago’s defense isn’t as good as Baltimore’s in his opinion.
“I would still say Baltimore is the best defense I’ve faced, but Chicago has a real good defense. They stopped the run, but they didn’t stop the pass,” Johnson said.
Gashed: Quarterback Kerry Collins came the interview room with a big gash across his nose, but it wasn’t from Sunday’s game.
Instead, it came from a Friday night deer hunting excursion where a muzzleloader kicked back and opened the wound.
“I shot a buck the other night with a muzzleloader, and the thing kicked back and popped me. I wish a better story,” Collins said. “He wasn’t very big, a six-pointer, but I got him. I was pretty happy, and bleeding profusely.”