Titans start new streak, this time the winning kind

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vince Young has yet to turn the ball over, Chris Johnson keeps running past defenders and Tennessee now has two straight wins.

Is this the start of a new streak for a team that started 10-0 last season and 0-6 this season?

The Titans sure hope so.

A team that went into its bye outscored 127-26 in three straight games now has flipped that with a 64-40 edge, including a 34-27 win at San Francisco on Sunday. The schedule gets easier, too, with Buffalo (3-5) visiting Sunday and five of the final eight at home.

"Guys feel rejuvenated, guys are happy about what we've done over the last two weeks," veteran center Kevin Mawae said Monday. "Things kind of snowballed on us the first six weeks of the season, but we overcame that. We're starting to overcome the penalties and starting to overcome the things that don't go our way."

Coach Jeff Fisher said balls are going their way after going against them early. Before the bye, the Titans had only 11 sacks and just four interceptions on defense. Now they have eight sacks and five interceptions in the two wins. A different player came up with each of four turnovers in San Francisco, and Cortland Finnegan had their first interception return for a touchdown.

"We're making these happen," Fisher said. "They didn't happen before. Those balls hit the ground and now we're catching them. We just have to continue.

"The team's healed up, we're healthy. It's good to get the DBs back," Fischer said. "We're running the football, and we're protecting it. When you can do that, you can win games."

That's the formula Tennessee used in reeling off 10 straight wins last season.

The difference now is that Young is starting instead of Kerry Collins. The 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year has shown patience and trust in his teammates in these two starts, and he is completing 64.3 percent of his passes. He showed he knows when to run by running for his first touchdown since Nov. 19, 2007, on Sunday.


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Young called two straight wins big.

"The way we started, it was bad. How we're coming together as a team and coaching staff and everybody's starting to believe and get the momentum," he said.

Running the ball has been a plus in these wins. Johnson ran 24 times against Jacksonville and 25 more against the 49ers, and he became the first running back to top 100 yards against San Francisco this season with 135. Johnson has rushed for 363 yards in these wins.

"We felt like we needed our run game, we need to beat them with the speed," Fisher said of the 49ers. "We did, and nobody has done that this year."

But the biggest key has been on defense. Finnegan missed the final three losses before the bye with an injured right hamstring. The secondary also went a month without key defensive back Vincent Fuller because of a broken arm, and starting cornerback Nick Harper broke his right forearm Oct. 11.

The Titans signed veteran Rod Hood on Oct. 15, and he has started for Harper in these wins. Hood picked off a pass for the Titans' first turnover against Jacksonville, then he did it again in San Francisco, grabbing a ball tipped to him by safety Michael Griffin.

"You can't do everything, draw it all up perfectly and guess right all the time as coaches. Sometimes they just have to make plays," Fisher said of the players. "That's what's been happening the last couple of weeks."

A little bit of luck doesn't hurt either. Jacob Ford's helmet hit the ball as he sacked Alex Smith, and Keith Bulluck recovered what officials ruled an incomplete pass. Fisher challenged the call -- and won for the first time in four challenges this season.

Receiver Nate Washington said they aren't giving up on this season, not with eight games left.

"We are going to continue to keep plucking away and see how it pans out for us," he said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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