Belichick on Titans: Just turn on the projector
|10.14.09 at 8:24 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Don’t be fooled by the 0-5 record of the Tennessee Titans.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick certainly isn’t. If ever there was a winless team who could strike fear into coaching staff and players, it’s this group from Nashville.
It’s a group that lost in overtime on opening night in Pittsburgh, by three points at home to Houston in Week 2 and by seven in a Week 3 road loss to the Jets.
Since then, they’ve been blown out by Jacksonville and Indianapolis.
“This is a real good football team,” Belichick told a sometimes skeptical media gathering at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. “They’re a very experienced team, well-coached, tough, physical team. They do a great job running the ball. They do a great job defending the run. They cover kicks. [They have] good skill players, good pass rushers, a real good front, so you can see why they won a lot of games last year.”
Thirteen to be exact, on their way to a No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, only to be dispatched by the Baltimore Ravens in their first playoff game. A lot of observers felt they had everything in place to make another strong run, even with the loss of free agent defensive stud Albert Haynesworth to Washington.
But now, with Haynesworth gone and cornerback Cortland Finnegan nursing a hamstring injury, the Titans have become very susceptible to the pass, leading many to believe that this could be a big game for Brady, Moss and Welker.
“I don’t believe it’s been the fact that Albert’s not here,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’re still getting pressure, we’re still handling the run, and we’ve got a good rotation going inside. Yes, you’re going to miss good players like Albert, but we’ve got a good rotation inside, so I wouldn’t attribute it to the fact that he’s not here.”
The Titans are allowing 287 yards a game through the air — tied for last in the NFL — and just last week Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns.
“It’s been an unfortunate combination of things where we’ve had either some difficulty in communication or somebody’s eyes were wandering or just little things,” Fisher said. “And then of course we’ve been without Cortland [Finnegan] and [free safety] Vinny Fuller. Vinny’s an integral part of our nickel package. But we expect his return here in the next couple of weeks. So really if it was one thing in particular, we’d fix it. It’s just been a combination of things and we’re just trying to grow through it.”
“They do a lot of things well. Jeff [Fisher] has done a great job down there for the 14 years he’s been there,” Belichick said. “They play very consistently. They play very well, so we know this is going to be a big challenge for us this week.”
The No. 1 challenge for the Patriots defense this week will be making sure the league’s third-best overall rusher and best back from scrimmage doesn’t run wild on them. Chris Johnson may be the best back ever on an 0-5 team.
“Of course it feels like we’re 0-5 right now, but we’ll get this team turned back around,” Johnson said. “We can’t sit here and be like, ‘We’re 0-5. We’re out of the playoffs – this and that.’ We just have to keep playing hard and keep taking it one game at a time. It’s like if we win this weekend, we’re 1-5, so we can win five straight and be 5-5.”
“Chris Johnson’s as good a back as we’re going to face all year, as good a back as I’ve seen in awhile,” Belichick added. “He’s really impressive, so is everybody else. They have a lot of good players — receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen, outstanding kicker, defensive front, linebackers, good safeties, so they have a lot of good players.”
Still, the standings don’t lie. The Titans are 0-5 and it’s not going to be an easy psychological sell that the Pats shouldn’t win this game just by showing up. But again, Belichick has the perfect answer.
“I would just turn on the projector,” Belichick said. “That’s all I would do is just turn on the projector. I think anybody that would say that about the Titans obviously hasn’t seen them play. I don’t know how you could watch them on film and possibly think that unless you were sleeping while the film was rolling. I don’t know how you could possibly think that.
“I’m not speaking about what their record is,” Belichick continued. “I’m just saying get ready for their football team. They’ve got good talent, they’ve got good players, they play hard and that’s what we have to get ready for, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
The other area that should really concern the Patriots and their followers this weekend is the front seven. Yes, Haynesworth is no longer plugging the middle, but Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tony Brown, Jovan Haye and Jevon Kerse still form one of the most feared fronts in the NFL. And the man who should be most concerned about that doesn’t have to be reminded.
“They blitz about 20 percent of the time,” Tom Brady said. “It’s not a ton. But there are teams that certainly blitz 50 percent of the time, like Denver did, the Jets did, Baltimore did. A lot of teams are heavy blitzers. It’s just different philosophy, and what they do, they do very well.
“Peyton [Manning] is always in control back there,” Brady continued. “He’s a great player and he played a great game against them. That’s what you need from the quarterback position because if you make mistakes, they really take advantage of the opportunities.
“They lost by a field goal against Pittsburgh,” Belichick said. “They lost by a field goal against the Texans. It’s 14-9 against Indianapolis with a minute to go at half. They’re playing without some of their best players. They lost a tight game against the Jets, fumbled a couple punts. A couple plays here and there like we’ve all seen. Everybody’s been down that road before, but they’re tough, they do a lot of things well. They’re going to win their share of games, don’t worry.”
Belichick’s worry is that it starts this weekend.
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