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Johnson: Balance of power shifting atop AFC South

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

(Photo)
Tennessee offensive linemen Kevin Mawae (68) and Eugene Amano share a hug near the end of their 31-21 win over Indianapolis.
(T-G Photo by Danny Parker)
NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee Titans continue to roll.

Who would have ever believed it?

Seven games into the season, the Titans are 7-0 and sit atop the NFL as the only undefeated team.

You won't find anyone in the Titans organization saying they are the best team in the NFL just yet. But rest assured the team is extremely delighted with their four-game lead over the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South.

Tennessee's impressive 31-21 victory over the Colts on ESPN's Monday Night Football is just another step toward a shift atop the division where the Colts have won the past five titles.

Having a four-game lead in the division is nice, but there's something about this team that is very "blue collar" and "workmanlike."

The Titans are not very flashy, they don't strive for national media attention and they take one game at a time.

"The season is still early and there are a lot of games left," coach Jeff Fisher said. "Our focus was on the Colts and trying to prepare to try to find a way to beat them. That was a commitment that we made this week.

"We're not looking ahead. We'll now look ahead to next weekend but as far as the division stuff and all the stuff concerned, we're just trying to win ballgames right now."

Quarterback Kerry Collins has the same take on the situation.

"We're trying to get where they've been. It was a big step for us tonight, I think. We obviously got off to a good start, and to get one more against a division opponent is again real big at this time of year."

With the Titans being in a small market by NFL standards, many believe that their very successful start has gone unnoticed or with lack of respect.

"Everybody is going to have their own thoughts," running back LenDale White said. "Some people that we played before probably don't think we are that good. Some people that we did beat probably think we are that good. Everybody has their own perception."

Trailing 14-6 late in the third quarter, the Titans took control of the game by scoring 25 unanswered points.

The Colts added a meaningless TD in the closing minutes of the contest.

(Photo)
Titans safety Chris Hope (24) returns one of his two interceptions.
(T-G Photo by Danny Parker)
A quality victory on national television, over a very well-coached team with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, might be the first step in gaining attention.

"It feels awesome to do that in front of a national audience," fullback Ahmard Hall said. "Like I said, they weren't giving us any credit so I mean if you do that and you beat the Colts decisively on a national stage, then you've proven it there."

Tennessee's 7-0 start has gotten the attention of some.

"They have always played us tough but the big thing is they are not making the mistakes this year," Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said. "They are not turning over the ball over. They've got a guy that can make the big runs for them. I think Chris Johnson has added a lot to their offense and they are playing with confidence.

"Defensively, they're physical. They didn't have (Kyle) Vanden Bosch, which makes a big difference, but they rotate a lot of front people through there. Their linebackers are aggressive and fast. They have got a good defense."

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is also impressed with Tennessee, especially their defense.

"Their defense has always been excellent. It's really been the same number of players the last few years. They're an excellent team."

Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer. He can be reached at gjohnson@t-g.com.

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