The 3-4 Tennessee Titans travel to St. Louis to take on the 3-5 Rams and former head coach Jeff Fisher in a match up many fans have been waiting on since it was announced. It became an even more emotional event with the official announcement from the Rams on July 30, 2013 that they would wear their Superbowl “throwback” uniforms in the game.
In case you didn’t know, the Rams narrowly defeated the Titans at the end of the 1999 season with a victory on January 30, 2000 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. Jeff Fisher obviously was the Titans head coach then and there are still numerous Titans connections between the two teams.
Current defensive assistant Gregg Williams was Jeff Fisher’s defensive coordinator on that team. Current Titans head coach was Fisher’s offensive line coach. Current defensive coordinator Jerry Gray was the defensive backs coach. Other names with connections who are still with the Titans are George Henshaw (tight ends coach) and Bruce Matthews who was a player then and now serves as the offensive line coach for Munchak.
There are some current Rams who also started their careers with the Tennessee Titans including cornerback Cortland Finnegan, defensive lineman William Hayes and tight end Jared Cook. Linebacker Will Witherspoon, who spent 2010 through 2012, is on the Rams roster.
The win/loss column doesn’t do the Titans justice as they are a better team than their record suggests. The Titans last three losses came to the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. Those teams are collectively 21-3. The Titans were on their bye week during Week 8.
The Rams lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford to an ACL injury on October 20, 2013 and now have Kellen Clemens, an 8th year veteran, starting at the quarterback position. In his first game of the year, he threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. In all fairness, it was against the Seattle Seahawks who have a very good secondary.
Titans quarterback Jake Locker should be close to healthy and has regained much of his mobility. The third year quarterback was having an excellent year before going down with an injury to his right hip and knee. The Titans will need him in they are going to make a run in the second half of the season.
The Titans have struggled in their run game but will have a healthy Shonn Greene complimenting Chris Johnson. Mike Munchak has said Johnson will get around 20 carries per game while Greene should get around 15. That is a lot of carries Mike. Still, the Titans need to establish the run game again and if they can successfully run that many times I’m all for it.
The Rams will be without starting right guard Harvey Dahl but left tackle Jake Long is playing at a very high level. The Titans will once again start rookie Brian Schwenke at center having placed Rob Turner on injured reserve. The Titans should have the edge on the offensive line, but the Rams have been running the ball a lot better. However, Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy is however for Sunday.
The Titans have a better wide receiver corp than the Rams even with Kenny Britt struggling this year. Second year receiver Kendall Wright is making big plays and as is Nate Washington. Rookie Justin Hunter has shown flashes but needs consistency to earn more playing time. The Titans made a great decision letting Jared Cook walk and signing Delanie Walker. Walker is a very underrated part of the Titans offense.
The Rams defense is playing much better and they have a great defensive end combination in Robert Quinn and Chris Long. I would rank that combination over the Titans starting defensive ends in Derrick Morgan and Ropati Pituitua who are both playing very well. The Titans have missed Morgan being healthy the past two games as he was having a great year. The defensive tackle rotation, led by fantastic defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, gets the edge over the Rams in the middle. Both teams play a base 4-3 defense.
Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree is having a pretty good rookie season but the Titans have the better outside linebacker group. Multipurpose linebacker Akeem Ayers can line up at linebacker or defensive end and is turning into a very good edge rusher. Grown man Zach Brown is second the team in tackles with 44 and has 3 sacks as well. Colin McCarthy is back starting at middle linebacker due to the injury to Moise Fokou.
The Titans secondary is one of the best in the league and is the clear edge in the matchup. Strong safety Bernard Pollard leads the team in tackles with 47 and has 2 interceptions and 3 passes defensed. Free safety Michael Griffin is having a fantastic 2013 campaign but is dealing with a quad injury. He is expected to make the trip and play Sunday.
The match up that goes easily to the Titans is at the cornerback position which is likely surprising to many Titans fans who were disappointed to see Cortland Finnegan walk and sign with the Rams after the 2011 season. Finnegan had a good start to 2012 but faded a bit down the stretch. He has had a disastrous and injury marked 2013 season.
On the other hand, Titans cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner are having stellar 2013 seasons. The Titans defense is 7th in the league in passing yards allowing only 219.9 yards per game. The Titans are also 10th in the league in points allowed with 20.9 points per game, and 13th in the league in total yards allowing 337.0 yards per game.
The Rams have a returner the Titans will need to contain in Tavon Austin. The Titans will be starting Damian Williams at the return position having moved on from returner Darius Reynaud following a series of miscues in the return game. Both teams have solid kicking and punting games.
The intangibles in this game are obviously the motivational factors. You know Fisher wants to beat his former team. YOU KNOW MIKE MUNCHAK WANTS TO WIN THIS GAME. Surely the Titans want to win this one for recently deceased owner Bud Adams. This will their first time on the playing field following Mr. Adams death on October 21, 2013.
The game kicks off in St. Louis at noon on CBS at the Edward Jones Dome. Pete Morelli and his officiating crew will referee the game.