When the Tennessee Titans were last in the spotlight at New Orleans in Week 3, they turned in their most complete performance of the season, a 31-14 pasting of the Saints before a Monday Night Football national audience.
In that game, the defense was stellar, led by Keith Bulluck’s three interceptions, and the offense enjoyed one of its more productive games of the season.
As another primetime opportunity this Monday in Denver, the Titans find themselves at a bit of a crossroads in the season. They are 6-3 and currently are in position to hold one of the two AFC wild-card berths, but coming off a 28-13 loss at home to Jacksonville, the Titans are eager to not only put a poor performance behind them, but also show America they are worthy of being considered a top-flight playoff contender.
“I think everybody on this team is a little embarrassed by how the game went [against Jacksonville],” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “A lot of things were out of character as opposed to the other things we’ve done this year. It’s a really good chance for us to redeem ourselves and prove to everybody that we’re the team, especially the defense, that was out there most of the season and not the defense that was out there last week.”
Bulluck, who deemed himself “Mr. Monday Night” before the Saints game, then played one of the best games of his career, agreed that the primetime game comes at a good time for the Titans.
“Just like when we had that meltdown in Houston [29-point fourth quarter], we came back and played great football,” Bulluck said. “We’re looking forward to this week and coming back and having a solid performance and putting last week behind us and trying to jockey ourselves for position going into the playoffs.”
The Titans were just beginning to get back on the football radar this season after not being in the playoffs since 2003, only to stumble last week. Now they have to take advantage of any chance they can get for recognition.
It comes with the small-market territory of playing in Tennessee, as opposed to a place like New York where everything can be overly scrutinized. Center Kevin Mawae, a former New York Jet, knows first-hand of the difference.
“I think it’s of big importance, especially for a lot of guys that want to get recognized,” Mawae said. “When you play in a small market, if you’re not just blowing the doors off everybody, you tend to get forgotten. That’s the beauty of being where we’re at — if you don’t want to be known, this is a good place to be. But yet if you’re playing well enough and make a strong showing on Monday Night Football, people are going to know about you.”
According to Mawae, it is important for the Titans to do more than just make a primetime appearance. They need to impress, and that will take more than they have shown of late.
“We’re kind of teetering on that edge where we can go out and be gangbusters and everybody is going to know what we’re really about,” he said, “or we can go out there and play like we’ve been playing the last three weeks and try to squeak by, and everybody is just going to say we’re another average team. So I think there is a lot riding on this game for our team and this locker room.”
Added Vanden Bosch, “It’s a chance for us to showcase what we have on this team, because we don’t get very many nationally televised games. We still feel like we’re one of the premier teams in this league, and we just have to go out on Monday night and prove it.”