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Friday, October 7, 2011
Schatz: Titans similar to 2003 team

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Aaron Schatz looks at the 2011 Titans and sees another Titans team.
“The way the Titans are winning right now should be a bit familiar to Tennessee fans, because the current team is playing a lot like the 2003 team, which went 13-3. That team also had a big-name running back who couldn't match his previous greatness in Eddie George. The 2003 Titans ranked first in passing DVOA but a dismal 30th running the ball. That put them in a lot of third-and-long situations, just like this year's Titans. The 2003 Titans were excellent when it came to converting those third-and-longs, and the same goes for this year's team.

“The biggest difference between the teams? It was a lot easier to trust that the Titans would be good all year when their quarterback was a 30-year-old star like Steve McNair, and not a 36-year-old veteran coming off three bad seasons. Hasselbeck's current 66.7 percent completion rate would be a career high, and so would his current rate of a touchdown every 16.5 pass attempts.

“Hasselbeck averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt over the last two seasons. If we look since 1978 at quarterbacks over age 35 coming off two straight years with less than 7.0 yards per attempt, only one of them averaged more than 7.1 yards per attempt the next year. That was Brett Favre, with 7.8 yards per attempt in 2007. Hasselbeck is averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. That simply can't last, especially with star receiver Kenny Britt now out of the lineup for the rest of the season. For the Titans to outlast the Texans for the AFC South title, they'll need their defense to remain strong all season.”

The key to sustaining that defense comes in the secondary, Schatz thinks. A falloff there could mean things come apart.

To me the big test in the long run is whether the Titans are more rugged and durable than they were last year and can be the same defense in December that they’ve been in September and October.