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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jacksonville vs. Tennessee

While the Tennessee Titans continue to find themselves increasingly in the spotlight with each successive win, the blue-collar team's focus is on its first goal of the season - its first AFC South title since 2002.

Looking to move closer to the division crown, the unbeaten Titans hit the road to face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

Tennessee (9-0) held on to win again last week, outlasting Chicago 21-14 at Soldier Field. With its formidable run game limited to 20 yards, veteran Kerry Collins stepped up and threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns to give the Titans a franchise-record 12th straight victory.

"Everybody right now is filling their role," said Collins, who completed 12 straight passes at one point. "For me, you play long enough you're going to be on good teams. You're going to be on bad teams. At this point in my career to be playing on a good football team that has a chance to go out and win every Sunday is exciting for me."

Tennessee broke the franchise mark of 11 consecutive wins set by the Houston Oilers from Oct. 17, 1993-Jan. 2, 1994. The Titans are also 4-0 on the road for the first time in the organization's 49-year history and picked up their team-record sixth straight victory away from home.

More important to the Titans - the NFL's only undefeated team - is their four-game lead over Indianapolis in the AFC South. The Titans will be trying to improve to 4-0 in division play Sunday.

"These young guys, I hope they don't take it for granted, which they will," said ninth-year linebacker Keith Bulluck, who's spent his entire career with Tennessee. "Us older guys are definitely making sure they stay in line and handle what they have to handle, because we know it doesn't come by that often."

Along with Collins' big effort, Tennessee's dominant defense helped pick up the slack for the run game last week. The Titans gave up just 243 yards against the Bears and are limiting opponents to an NFL-low 13.0 points per game.

The Titans will be looking to get their ground attack back on track this week after the Bears focused on shutting down the powerful rushing game, which came in ranked third in the league. Tennessee is averaging 134.8 yards per contest behind Chris Johnson (723 yards, five touchdowns) and LenDale White (418 yards, 11 TDs).

Jacksonville (4-5) returns home after avoiding a third straight defeat last week with a 38-14 victory over winless Detroit. David Garrard went 18-for-25 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, while running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combined for 150 yards rushing and three TDs.

Jacksonville is allowing 340.2 yards per game, but limited Detroit to a season-low 256 and totaled seven sacks - as many as it had in the previous six games.

Though the win came against possibly the worst team in the league, coach Jack Del Rio will take it.

"We need to use this as a game to build on and utilize going forward as a stepping stone, certainly not a place to arrive at," Del Rio said. "It's a nice step in the right direction."

Jacksonville played without linebacker and team captain Mike Peterson, who was inactive after being kicked out of a team meeting during the week for insubordination. His status for this week is uncertain.

The Jaguars were the Titans' first victims of the season, losing 17-10 at Tennessee in their season opener Sept. 7. Garrard was sacked seven times in that game and threw two interceptions to Cortland Finnegan as Tennessee won for the third time in the last four meetings.

Tennessee will also be looking to duplicate its effort against the run from that game, as the Titans held the Jaguars to 33 yards rushing.

Titans tight end Bo Scaife, who had 10 catches for 78 yards and a TD against the Bears, had six receptions for a career-high 105 yards in the season-opening win. He leads the Titans with 422 receiving yards.

Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, suffering from a torn groin muscle, doesn't know if he will be a game-time decision Sunday. Vanden Bosch suffered a slight tear Oct. 5 against Baltimore, and the injury has limited him since. He's been deactivated two of the past three games and had to leave the other two games early.

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