- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn. | Rob Bironas’ 47-yard field goal attempt on the final play of regulation bounced off the right upright.

But he bounced back on the first possession of overtime Sunday with his fourth field goal, a 41-yarder, to give the undefeated Tennessee Titans a 19-16 win against the Green Bay Packers.

“I was hoping for exactly what happened - we’d win the toss and get another shot at it,” Bironas said. “I don’t miss many, so I definitely wanted another shot at it to put us in the lead and go home with the victory.”

Tennessee (8-0) arrived at the halfway point of the regular season as the NFL’s only unbeaten team. It’s also the best start in franchise history. Critics are quick to point at the Titans’ soft schedule: Only one of their first eight opponents has a winning record. Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth calls his team a bunch of no names.

Victories against Indianapolis and Green Bay in the past six days have done little to change that perception.

“You ask anybody on this team and the coaches, we think [Green Bay] was the best team that we’ve faced so far,” Haynesworth said. “The Colts do have Peyton Manning, but I think that was a complete team there. They’re only a few plays away from being undefeated or 7-1.”

Titans center Kevin Mawae, who spent eight seasons with the New York Jets before signing with Tennessee in 2006, said the team is keeping a low profile because it’s not in a major media market.

“We’re still taking that underdog role,” Mawae said. “Being in a smaller market, we don’t get the respect, and we talk about that in the locker room. But at some point in time, people will realize the Tennessee Titans are for real. We don’t have flashy guys. We just get the job done.”

The Titans withstood a 314-yard passing barrage by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and only let Green Bay (4-4) in the end zone once. Titans safety Chris Hope foiled one of the Packers’ scoring drives with an end zone interception in the third quarter. A little more than two minutes later, linebacker Stephen Tulloch recovered a fumble by Rodgers at the Green Bay 17-yard line to set up Bironas’ third field goal.

“We’re running the football when we need to, and our defense is keeping the points down,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “The two defensive turnovers that we got were huge.”

LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson combined to rush for 166 yards. Johnson is one of the top rushers in the AFC, and White leads the NFL with 10 touchdowns. Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said the Titans have “one of the better rushing attacks, if not the best in the league.”

Titans quarterback Kerry Collins didn’t have one of his better games, but he showed a lot of poise as he led his team downfield for the winning drive in overtime. The 14-year veteran was a backup the previous two seasons but became the starter for the second game after Vince Young was sidelined with a knee injury.

“I think one thing we’re doing well is we’re not turning the ball over,” Collins said. “I think that has a lot to do with it. I think our receivers are making timely plays, and I think I’m making timely plays, but it hasn’t been pretty the whole way.”

Tennessee is running away with the AFC South, considered one of the best divisions in the NFL last year. But this year, Indianapolis, Houston and Jacksonville are all struggling.

A return trip to the playoffs appears likely, but it’s hard to predict how far the Titans will go.

“That all depends on how hard we want to work,” tackle Michael Roos said. “We’ve got to keep pushing each other and get ready for the next game at Chicago.”

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