|The Arizona Cardinals make their first visit to LP Field when they square off with the Titans on Sunday.|
It's not leaving Arizona. The Cardinals are road warriors this season, having won their first five games away from home for the first time since 1948. Kurt Warner appears healthy enough for his 42nd straight start after pulling himself in last week's 21-13 win over St. Louis after his head hit the turf.
Something will snap Sunday when the Cardinals, the last NFL team to visit LP Field, put their three-game winning streak up against the Titans, who have made league history by becoming the first team to start 0-6 only to rebound with four consecutive wins.
"It's a great thing right now because everyone counts us out," Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "We're a 4-6 team that started 0-6. Nobody expected us to be where we're at now. That's the attitude we want to have ... the underdog."
The Titans also have a home-field edge, beating 23 of the first 30 teams in their LP Field debuts. It's just a quirk of NFL scheduling that the Cardinals from the NFC West finally are coming to town a decade after the stadium opened.
But the Cardinals (7-3) have some intelligence on the stadium. Warner played here in 1999 while with St. Louis and said he remembers how loud the fans were. Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt made a few trips himself while with Pittsburgh.
"So I know what kind of atmosphere it is," Whisenhunt said. "I know how tough it is to play there. We have played in some tough environments this year. We play Seattle every year and that is a tough environment, as was New York when we played the Giants. Hopefully we will be able to handle it and have a chance."
Maybe so. Titans center Kevin Mawae played for both Seattle and the New York Jets in his career and thinks Tennessee fans are very savvy and supportive.
"I've been in our stadium when we're being blown out and losing, and our fans are still in the game. That's an experience a lot of teams don't have most of the time," Mawae said.
With their rebound, the Titans have given their fans plenty of reason to come out. Vince Young has won eight straight starts, including all four since relieving Kerry Collins, and Chris Johnson is the NFL's leading rusher. He will try to match Earl Campbell (1980) and Eric Dickerson (1984) as the only players in league history to rush for at least 125 yards in six straight games.
Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett expects the Titans' best shot.
"They get paid a lot of money to do a job, and their owner is sitting up in the box with his middle finger up and stuff, so you've got to be ready to play," Dockett said of Titans owner Bud Adams, who drew a $250,000 fine for how he celebrated Tennessee's last home win.
This will be Warner's first game against the Titans since the 2000 Super Bowl, when he beat them while with St. Louis. Titans coach Jeff Fisher sees no difference in the 38-year-old quarterback even with a decade between meetings.
Warner has been nearly perfect since being picked off five times by Carolina, going 66 of 89 for 804 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. His 116.3 passer rating on the road is the NFL's best and is why Matt Leinart, the quarterback taken after Young in the 2006 draft, remains on the bench.
On paper, it's no contest with Warner throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Arizona has the NFL's fourth-best passing offense, averaging 270 yards per game. Fitzgerald has an NFL-high nine TD catches.
Tennessee is the team torched by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady earlier this season, and the defense is next to last in yards passing (271.7). But the Titans finally are healthy again after the return of cornerback Nick Harper from a broken right forearm in last Monday's 20-17 win at Houston.
They gave up 305 yards passing to Matt Schaub, but held Houston to a mere field goal in the second half.
For a unit that has defended Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss and Andre Johnson, the Cardinals' trio of pass catchers is impressive.
"We've got to accept the challenge as it comes," Titans defensive back Vincent Fuller said.
Pressuring Warner will be key.
The Titans have 14 sacks in their streak and seven interceptions. Getting to Warner won't be as easy the way the quarterback is getting rid of the ball. Arizona hasn't allowed more than two sacks in a game since giving up four in a Sept. 27 loss to Indianapolis.
"The defensive staff said they can play without offensive linemen," Fisher said. "It's coming out that quick, and he's very, very accurate. It's not like you're going to shut Kurt Warner down, you just have to buckle down inside the 20-yard line and make them kick field goals."
How much Young and Johnson can help Tennessee control the ball will be key.
"All we've got to do is convert on third down and stay on the football field to keep them stars over on their receiving corps off the field," Young said.