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ON THE NFL

Titans are sticking to winning formula

November 10, 2008|SAM FARMER | Farmer is a Times staff writer

How good are the Tennessee Titans?

Let's go to the tape.

Not the videotape, but the strip of adhesive that Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse used Sunday to alter his No. 90 to read 9-0.

The handiwork was a clever tribute to the NFL's only undefeated team, and it came in the waning moments of Tennessee's 21-14 victory at Chicago.

Maintaining a zero in the loss column is especially impressive considering that 29 of 32 teams have dropped at least three games this season.

It was yet another Sunday that featured more parity than clarity. San Diego and Minnesota each won by a point, Miami won by two points and Indianapolis won by four.

Not every game was close. While Kearse was tweaking his jersey, the St. Louis Rams were getting thumped in Jersey, losing by 44 points to the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

"It was embarrassing," said Rams interim Coach Jim Haslett, becoming more interim by the week. "That was bad football all the way around. I can't even describe it."

Maybe this will help put those 44 points in perspective: It would take Tom Cable's Oakland Raiders more than six weeks to score that many points. They've averaged 7.0 points in five games under their new coach.

Then again, Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew would have hit 44 points in slightly more than two quarters if he kept up his Sunday pace. The former UCLA standout rushed for three touchdowns in the second quarter at Detroit, getting maximum value out of his 11-carry, 70-yard day.

That game was a reminder that, even with the just-added Daunte Culpepper at quarterback, the Lions are still the Lions.

Looks can be deceiving. Just take a peek at what New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees did at Atlanta, throwing for 422 yards. All that turned out to be fantasy-league fluff, though, as Brees was outplayed by Falcons rookie Matt Ryan in a 34-20 loss.

Atlanta is 4-0 at home for the first time since its Super Bowl season in 1998.

"We have to stop using the word 'surprise,' " Falcons safety Lawyer Milloy said. "We always felt like we had a chance."

Unbelievably, the Falcons have emerged as one of the league's hottest teams, picking up their fourth victory in five games.

Buffalo, meanwhile, has lost four of five after a 4-0 start. Sunday, the Bills lost again at New England, where they have never beaten a Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick.

"I'm frustrated," Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards said. "We watched the film and I knew what they would do. But watching it on tape and them performing is completely different."

It was another solid day for New England's Matt Cassel. Who would have dreamed that Cassel -- and not the quarterbacks he backed up at USC, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart -- would be the one rolling this season?

The team truly on a roll is the Titans. They beat the Bears despite getting only 20 yards from their third-ranked rushing game. That's one more yard than Tennessee's franchise low, but this is what really matters: The Titans have won a club-record 12 consecutive regular-season games, dating to last season.

Whereas the Titans celebrated keeping a streak alive, the Minnesota Vikings were happy to see theirs end. They beat Green Bay for the first time in the era of Brad Childress, making their coach 1-5 against the Packers.

The Vikings got a 192-yard rushing performance from Adrian Peterson and set a franchise record with two safeties by their defense. On the flip side -- or, better, the flop side -- Minnesota gave up its sixth special-teams touchdown of the year.

The game came down to a 52-yard field-goal try by Green Bay's Mason Crosby, who missed right by inches in the closing seconds.

As for the Raiders, who lost at home to Carolina, field goals were all they had. They got two from Sebastian Janikowski, whose six points gave him 865 in his career. That moved him ahead of George Blanda for the club's scoring record. Strange, anyone in silver and black setting a scoring record this season.

Even though they intercepted four Jake Delhomme passes, the Raiders, with Andrew Walter at quarterback, didn't have the offensive horsepower to capitalize. They converted only two of 17 third downs in the 17-6 defeat.

In the Kansas City-San Diego game, it was a failed two-point conversion at the end that spelled defeat for the visitors. Instead of kicking the point-after to tie, the Chiefs rolled the dice with a pass that safety Clinton Hart knocked to the ground. The Chargers sealed the victory by recovering an onside kick.

Chiefs Coach Herm Edwards said that when confronting the option of going for the win, or playing for overtime, he didn't hesitate.

"When you're 1-7, it isn't even a question of what you do," he said. "These guys deserve to win football games."

When it comes to wobbly teams, no one wobbles like Detroit, which briefly gave Jacksonville a scare before losing in a blowout.

But there was a bit of good news for the Lions.

Sure, they have loads of athletic tape. But nobody wears 09.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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Career revival

Arizona's Kurt Warner is playing the way he did during his two MVP seasons. PAGE 5

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