Collins still tough, still perfect, ready to throw

With Chicago's defense stacking the box, the Titans turned to Collins to lead them to victory in Chicago.

But Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher can spare himself a little aggravation and a lot of time in front of a TV. He saw everything he needed to in person. The snap judgment Fisher rendered right after the Titans beat the Bears 21-14 proved that.

"It's nice to win a ballgame and not play well,'' he said.

The 9-0 Titans are still the only unbeaten team in the league - but hardly as lucky as Fisher made it sound. They're nowhere near as complete as the 2007 Patriots team that didn't lose until it tripped in the Super Bowl. Nor do they possess the lightning-strike capability of those Colts teams that flirted with perfection several times in the years before that.

But Tennessee defends as well as anybody at the moment, and usually runs the ball better than most.

Just not against the Bears.

Chicago stacked seven or eight defenders along the line of scrimmage and dared the Titans and Kerry Collins to win the game through the air. They did. But not comfortably enough for their coach, despite season-high totals across the board for Collins - 30 of 41 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.

"We made some mistakes. They forced a lot of mistakes. We did some things that were really uncharacteristic of us and still found a way to win,'' he said.

Fisher did not look pleased. "We'll correct the mistakes and try to get better and look forward to the next opponent,'' he added.

At least the coach understands it takes two to tango. So before we get into why that next opponent, Jacksonville, or any of the other teams remaining on the schedule won't find much comfort or many useful tips from the way the Bears gummed up the Titans' rushing attack, a few words about a Chicago offense that played much worse.

It's almost impossible to have a quarterback controversy when you've only got one quarterback healthy, except when that's Rex Grossman.

No one in the NFL throws a better out-of-bounds pass. No one has more balls tipped, takes more uncalled-for risks or has more confidence in his ability to jam a ball into coverage than Grossman - despite an ever-growing body of evidence to the contrary.

Then again, no team may be committed to spending less on the position than Chicago.

Grossman is still around despite a career passer rating of 73.0, with 31 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions coming into the season. But once starter Kyle Orton went down last weekend with an ankle injury, it was either Grossman or Caleb (Who?) Hanie.

Chicago's saving grace remains its defense. A swift linebacking corps led by Brian Urlacher used a host of blitzes and stunts to plug the gaps running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White had poured through all season. The Bears limited the NFL's third-ranked rushing attack to 20 total yards on 29 carries - numbers the franchise hadn't seen since it was named the Oilers and playing in Houston five decades ago.

The Bears weren't the first team to try stuffing the box, just the first to succeed. But Tennessee has already beaten the Ravens and Vikings, two other top defenses against the run, and the only teams left on the Titans' schedule with the chance to do so are probably the Steelers and Colts.

The way Collins responded to the challenge, the remaining opponents might want to keep their options open.

"We expected to get a lot of what we got today,'' said Collins, who took over from starter Vince Young in Week 2. "It's really been a recurring theme.''

What was different Sunday, though, was how quickly and completely the Titans had to shift gears. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said he realized after the second series that the Titans weren't going anywhere trying to run the ball - and the run-pass ratio the rest of the way bears him out.

It was 6-9 in the first quarter, 7-14 in the second (Tennessee had minus-5 yards at halftime) and 4-13 in the third. It wasn't until the Titans went ahead 21-7 in the fourth, after White ran 2 yards for a touchdown, that they returned to the run as a way to manage the clock. In between, Collins spread the ball around to seven different receivers and was sacked only once.

"For me, you play long enough you're going to be on good teams. You're going to be on bad teams,'' he said. "At this point in my career to be playing on a good football team that has a chance to go out and win every Sunday is exciting for me.''

Fisher knows the Titans will have to get better to keep doing that. Chicago was only the second team with a winning record the Titans have faced during this run - Baltimore was the other - and more than a few of the Bears were still trying to figure out how they got beat.

"Maybe they have some kind of angel around them or something,'' Bears receiver Rashied Davis said. "I don't know.''

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