DETROIT _ The Tennessee Titans enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast at Ford Field, cruising to a 47-10 victory over the winless Detroit Lions on Thursday.
When it was over, the Titans were more than happy to get rid of the bitter taste of their first loss last Sunday against the New York Jets, by rolling out to a 35-10 halftime lead and coasting in the second half with four Rob Bironas field goals for their 11th win in 12 games.
“Detroit, they’re 0-11. It’s not a knock on them, but we expected to win this game,” said running back LenDale White. “There was no way coming into this game that we thought we were going to lose. It’s not being cocky. We just knew that we were the better team. The Jets, it was a hard loss, because we actually feel we’re better than them, too. But we took one on the chin. … There would have been nothing worse than losing to the Jets and then coming out and losing to an 0-11 team. We just came out swinging. We gave them the first punch, and they fell out.”
For the hapless Lions, who have four more chances to avoid becoming the NFL’s first 0-16 team, it was their worst Thanksgiving Day loss in 69 games played on the holiday. Dating back to last season, the Lions have now lost 19 of 20 and 13 in a row.
The Titans made certain there would be no thoughts of a Thanksgiving Day upset by the Lions, scoring on four of five first-half possessions and getting Dave Ball’s interception return for a touchdown after their only punt of the first half.
And though the Lions certainly were not the foe the Titans faced last week vs. the Jets, Tennessee wanted to snuff out any thoughts of another letdown by dominating early.
“We haven’t started well the last four weeks,” tight end Alge Crumpler said. “It was important for just to just come out and play good football. I’d never say a loss helps a team, but it damn sure got us refocused really quick.”
Chris Johnson was the early star for Tennessee, scoring on a 6-yard run on Tennessee’s first drive and adding a 58-yard touchdown run to cap the Titans’ second touchdown march. The Lions did manage to sandwich a Jason Hanson 53-yard field goal between the Titans’ touchdowns.
After a Craig Hentrich punt pinned the Lions at their own 21, linebacker Keith Bulluck unleashed a second-down blitz, causing Daunte Culpepper to loft a floater that Ball picked off and ran 15 yards untouched for the Titans’ third touchdown and a 21-3 first-quarter advantage.
“I’m just thinking why is this ball coming to me so slowly. It was just hovering, you know,” Ball said of his interception.
White then scored on TD runs of 6 and 2 yards for Tennessee for a 35-3 lead before the Lions had perhaps their lone highlight in a day that otherwise was, well, a turkey.
Detroit’s Cliff Avril sacked Kerry Collins, forced and recovered a fumble returning it to the 2-yard line. From there, the Lions needed two plays to score the TD as Culpepper hit Michael Gaines for the score.
Tennessee’s domination on the ground against the NFL’s worst-rated run defense was evident with 191 first-half yards on 22 carries.
Johnson led the Tennessee ground charge with 125 yards on 16 carries with 119 of that coming in the first half. White, who openly complained about a lack of carries Sunday vs. the Jets, ran for 106 yards on 23 attempts against the Lions.
In all, the Titans rolled up 292 yards on the ground and added another 181 through the air and finished with 456 net yards of total offense, making it look almost too easy in the process.
“You don’t ever want to go into a game thinking anything is going to be easy,” center Kevin Mawae said. “You go into every game thinking you’re going to get everybody’s best shot, and that’s what we expected from them. It’s their nationally televised game. They’re at home. It’s Thanksgiving Day and they’ve got a lot to prove, and we expected them to give their best. Whether they did it or not, I don’t know. We tried to go out there and give ours.”
Heading into the game, Titans coach Jeff Fisher had said the focus would be to run the football and stop the run. The Titans defense held up its end of the bargain as well, limiting the Lions to just 23 yards on 14 rushes. Save for one 21-yard gain by Kevin Smith, Detroit managed just two more yards on the ground.
“We had to show everybody that that loss was behind us, that that wasn’t us on Sunday, that this is still a good team and that we’re a contender in the postseason,” Albert Haynesworth said.
The victory gives Tennessee now a full weekend off and 10 days before they host the Cleveland Browns at LP Field on Dec. 7.
“I hope to be fresh like the Jets were coming off their Thursday night game,” Crumpler said. “I hope it helps, but the thing we’ve got to do is take care of our bodies over this break and not eat too much damn turkey.”