Titans Deserve to be NFL's Only Undefeated Team, Colts Players Say
INDIANAPOLIS – As Antoine Bethea sees it, when it comes to the Tennessee Titans, Bill Parcells was very much right.
You are what your record says you are.
Parcells, the longtime head coach of four NFL teams and now the Vice President of Football Operations for the Miami Dolphins, has been credited widely with the above statement, and Bethea – the Colts' Pro Bowl safety – said it applies perfectly to the Colts' AFC South rival.
The Titans lead the AFC South. They are 6-0, the NFL's last unbeaten team.
All of which Bethea said means one thing:
The Titans are very good.
"They're 6-0, so, of course they're that good," Bethea said as the Colts (3-3), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Monday at 8:30 p.m.
"Their defense is playing well. Offensively, they're running real well, and they're controlling the clock. You have to give them their props. They're 6-0 and they're playing real well."
The Titans, after making the playoffs four times between 1999 and 2003, failed to qualify for the postseason three consecutive seasons before making it on the final Sunday last regular season.
They have, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said this week, rebuilt with a focused plan in recent seasons, drafting well and signing quality, veteran free agents who fit their philosophy:
That is, run effectively, control the clock and play solid defense.
"They have put a nice team together," said Dungy, who said this week the Titans are the best team the Colts have played this season. "They're impressive."
Said Colts President Bill Polian, "No one should be surprised that they're 6-0. . . . It's not a mirage by any means. They are a very, very good football team."
The Titans, after six games, rank 20th in the NFL in total offense, but when it comes to running effectively, they are one of the NFL's best. They rank fourth in the NFL, and have one of the NFL's premier young backfield combination: rookie Chris Johnson and third-year veteran LenDale White.
Johnson, a first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft from East Carolina, and White – who played collegiately at Southern California – have combined for 863 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, and the Titans rank fourth in the NFL in rushing. They set a franchise-record with 332 yards rushing in a victory over Kansas City Sunday.
"Obviously, we've gotten off to a good start," Titans quarterback Kerry Collins said. "It's been a pretty simple formula. Being able to run the ball, playing good defense, making a few plays in the passing game and taking care of the football has given us a chance in every ballgame, and it has allowed us to get off to a good start."
Collins, who Polian selected No. 5 overall in the 1995 NFL Draft while the General Manager of the Carolina Panthers, took over in Week 2 as the starter, replacing third-year veteran Vince Young, the No. 3 overall selection by the Titans in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Whereas Young is one of the NFL's most-mobile quarterbacks, Collins is a 14-year veteran who Colts players said this week is less of a threat to run, but very effective running the offense.
"He's playing real consistent for them," Bethea said. "He's not making any mistakes, and he's doing what coaches are asking him to do, controlling the game. He's doing a great job of that."
Collins, who previously has played for Carolina, New Orleans, the New York Giants – a team he quarterbacked to the Super Bowl following the 2000 season – and the Oakland Raiders, is third among active quarterbacks in career passing yards with 35,580. He ranks behind New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre (62,976) and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (43,157).
Collins, who started four games the past two seasons, has completed 75 of 133 passes for 863 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions this season.
"He is now an extremely veteran presence who lends not only great talent, but great wisdom and leadership to this team," Polian said. "He's sort of the missing piece, if you will."
Said Collins, "At this point in my career, I'm really only worried about one stat and that's how many wins I can get. But, I think overall our offense has been productive. Maybe my numbers don't jump out, but I think offensively as a whole, we've been fairly productive."
Defensively, tackle Albert Haynesworth and end Kyle Vanden Bosch form the core of one of the NFL's best lines, and the Titans haven't allowed more than 17 points in their last nine games.
"They're probably the best defense in the league," Polian said.
Most impressive about the Titans, middle linebacker Gary Brackett said, was how their ability to turn a smart, mistake-free approach into success.
"Coach always talks about half the battle in the league is not beating yourself," Brackett said. "That's something we've done a lot. That's something they haven't done. They've been playing smart. They've been playing great football on defense, getting the ball back to their offense with turnovers, and they've been playing real smart on offense, running the ball effectively and making passes when they have to."
It is a style Colts defensive end Raheem Brock is familiar.
"They're just more consistent – how we used to be," Brock said. "They're consistent and making plays. They're doing a great job. We just want to be more consistent and more like that right now – get back to what we've been doing."
Dungy said the Titans likely have taken the approach this week that with a three-game lead they have a chance to all-but eliminate Colts with a victory Monday. Collins, however said the Titans haven't discussed such topics in the first six weeks of the season, and now isn't the time to start.
"There's still a lot of football left to be played," Collins said. "Certainly, a lot of this is great. We've gotten off to a good start and it's great. But, to be able to do it throughout a whole season is the key. Our focus right now is on a division opponent coming in here, and we have to be ready to play.
"We're just trying to get another win. That's the approach we're taking. We're going to try to have a good week of practice this week and try to get a win any way we can. That's the bottom line."