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Inside track

NFL's best defense leaves Fisher confident in Titans' chances

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Posted: Tuesday December 26, 2000 7:42 PM
Updated: Tuesday December 26, 2000 9:27 PM

  Anthony Wright, Jevon Kearse, Keith Embray Jevon Kearse (90) and Keith Embray presented problems for Cowboys quarterback Anthony Wright on Monday. AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher chooses his words carefully and refuses to give opponents any bulletin board material. But he couldn't miss the chance to brag on his defense.

"This defense will give us a chance to win the Super Bowl," Fisher said Tuesday.

Bold words, but Fisher knows his defenses. He was an unofficial coach while on injured reserve with one of the NFL's best defenses ever with the Chicago Bears in 1985, and he likes what he sees in a unit that finished the regular season as the league's stingiest.

The Titans passed the Baltimore Ravens for top honors Monday night by allowing just 95 total yards in a 31-0 victory against the Dallas Cowboys. The Titans finished the season giving up an average of 238 yards per game and also ranked No. 1 against the pass and third against the run.

Their performance against Dallas secured the NFL's best record at 13-3, a bye week, home-field advantage through the playoffs and the franchise's first AFC Central title since 1993 and third overall.

Better yet, the Titans are enjoying their best streak of play this season.

They have won four in row with two consecutive shutouts and haven't given up a touchdown in 12 quarters. Fisher said the Titans play hard, very smart and know what they are looking at before the ball is snapped.

"When guys guess, they guess right," Fisher said.

Even with Eddie George rushing for a career-high 1,509 yards this season, the defense has been impressive. They set a club record for sacks in a season for a second year in a row with 55, one better than 1999.

Click on the above image for a larger version.  

The defense also likes to take matters into its own hands and score its own points. The Titans have scored four touchdowns off interception returns, including one against the Cowboys during a third quarter in which they forced four turnovers that resulted in 24 points.

Tennessee reached the Super Bowl last season almost in spite of a defense that ranked 17th in the league. The Titans went out during the offseason and signed new middle linebacker Randall Godfrey and drafted linebacker Keith Bulluck.

End Jevon Kearse followed up his Defensive Rookie of the Year season by leading the Titans again in sacks, this time with 11.5.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said he thinks the defense has better games left to play.

"The big thing is we have the best record in football right now, we are the AFC Central champions and we have a chance to rest and see who's coming here," Williams said. "We all want to be in that big game and play the same kind of defense in the Super Bowl that we did [Monday night]."

But Fisher isn't ready to proclaim his Titans the favorite. When the Jacksonville Jaguars had the league's best record last season, he labeled them as the team to beat.

On Tuesday, he played coy and said many people consider the Ravens the favorite. He also shot down any ideas that the Titans feel pressure to repeat as AFC champions.

"The hard part's getting here. Now we can relax and have fun," he said.

Notes: The Titans will play Miami, Tampa Bay and Green Bay in Nashville in 2001 while visiting Oakland, Minnesota and Detroit along with their AFC Central opponents. ... Approximately 4,200 playoff tickets were scheduled to go on sale at 10 a.m. CST Wednesday to the Titans' divisional playoff game either Jan. 6 or 7.

Related information
Titans rout Cowboys to clinch AFC home field's 2000 NFL Playoffs coverage
Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher is proud of his team securing the AFC's home-field advantage. (273 K)
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