EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Tennessee Titans and New York Giants thought they put all the concerns about their franchises to rest in the opening weekend of the season.
Impressive wins over Oakland and Carolina seemed to indicate that the franchises were back on the right path after missing the playoffs in 2009.
Disappointing performances in Week 2 against Pittsburgh and Indianapolis left a lot of people scratching their heads, wondering about both teams.
The Titans (1-1) and Giants (1-1) both try to rebound at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday when they meet for the first time since a memorable matchup in 2006.
Neither team is happy coming into this one.
Jeff Fisher’s Titans turned the ball over seven times and eventually benched quarterback Vince Young in a 19-11 loss to the Steelers. The Giants are coming off an embarrassing nationally televised 38-14 loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts, a game that raised questions about the team’s leadership.
“I know Jeff was ticked; you know what I’m saying?” said linebacker Keith Bulluck, who will be facing his former coach and teammates for the first time since signing with the Giants as a free agent this summer. “So that means everybody else is ticked and they’re looking to come up and play a New York team that didn’t have a great outing last week against the Colts on national television. So we’re ticked over here, too.”
The Titans have one thing working in their favor: They have won nine consecutive game against NFC opponents, and have beaten the Giants in four straight.
“The bounce-back should be pretty easy — just no turnovers,” said Titans running back Chris Johnson, who last season became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2000 yards. “If we don’t have seven turnovers, it’ll be a whole different game on Sunday. It’ll be big. Our defense is playing great so if our offense can put up some points we should be all right.”
Despite throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble, Young again will start for the Titans.
“He’s fine,” Fisher said. “Nobody likes to go through what he went through last weekend, but he bounced back. I expect him to have a great week. He’s our quarterback, and he’ll be fine.”
Young was at quarterback four years ago when he rallied the Titans from a 21-0 fourth-quarter deficit to a 24-21 victory over the Giants with some mind-boggling plays.
“That’s way in the past,” Young said. “That’s a whole new team right now.”
The Giants’ biggest concern has to be Johnson. New York gave up 160 yards rushing in its loss to Indianapolis and now it faces last season’s offensive player of the year.
“I think this is a great challenge for my team for sure, because of what Tennessee brings to the table, their toughness, their running game, the people at the skill positions,” Bulluck said. “I think playing against the No. 1 quarterback in the league last week, now playing against the No.1 running back in the league this week, is a great test for this team. We’re going to find out a lot about ourselves, but I know that we definitely need to be ready because, like I said, we have a bad taste in our mouths from last week.”
The Giants were not competitive against the Colts. They trailed 24-0 at the half and they let Eli Manning take a beating. He was intercepted one and lost two fumbles on sacks, including one recovered for a touchdown.
“We just got outperformed,” Eli Manning said. “We were outplayed in a lot of areas, and that’s unfortunate. You don’t like for that to happen, but when you play this game long enough, you’re going to have those types of games. It’s part of sports and it happens to the best and worst of teams. It’s a matter of coming out that next week and being hungry and dedicated.”
Giants veteran safety Antrel Rolle questioned the team’s leadership two days after the game and that has been an issue for the Giants.
“I wish he would have talked to me first,” defensive captain Justin Tuck said.
Tennessee has the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense after two games. However, beating Oakland and a Steelers team that did not have Ben Roethlisberger might not have been the best measuring stick.
“We have to make sure we stay on our blocks and finish our blocks,” Giants left tackle David Diehl said. “This is a group that plays relentless football and makes a lot of plays just by hustle.”
The Giants were limited to 69 yards in the first half at Indy and Manning paid the price as Indianapolis sacked him four times and hurried him on six other occasions.
“Just like a fighter, you get knocked down but people are judging you to see how you get back up and see how you learn from it,” Diehl said. “This will be a test of our team and a test of each one of us individually. Last week did not go anyway the way we wanted it. We have to learn from it and move forward. It’s not time to panic and jump ship. I still have faith in everyone here.”
Giants tight end Kevin Boss, who missed last week with a concussion, is expected back. Pro Bowl center Shaun O’Hara, who has battled right ankle and Achilles’ tendon problems since training camp, is the biggest question mark. Adam Koets would replace O’Hara if he cannot play.