Momentum lost? No way, say Titans players

LB Keith Bulluck and the Titans now shift their focus to the AFC Divisional Playoff Game Jan. 10 at LP Field.

With the AFC's top seed and home-field advantage already locked up entering Sunday's contest at Lucas Oil Stadium, head coach Jeff Fisher decided to play it safe, resting several key starters and inserting backups early and often into the game.

While the final scoreboard showed Tennessee being shutout for the first time since 1999, Fisher's plan worked as backups received valuable playing time and key starters remained healthy and fresh as the team prepares for its AFC Divisional Playoff Game Jan. 10 at LP Field. 

"The plan going into this week was collectively to do the best thing we could possibly do for this team as we move forward towards the playoffs," Fisher said. "Our focus all week was on our football team, the health of our team and getting ready for the playoffs. Other than winning the game, we accomplished the goal."

With defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch already ruled out, the Titans deactivated running back Chris Johnson, wide receiver Justin Gage, cornerback Nick Harper, linebacker David Thornton, center Kevin Mawae and defensive end Dave Ball.

Even active players who normally start saw limited action as their backups quickly came in during the first quarter.

"We didn't have a lot of our regulars in there. If you looked at our sideline, eight guys sat and another 10 guys played one or two series and they were out," Mawae said. "Our focus now is to win the first playoff game at home, then get ready for a second one. We rested a bunch of guys today, but we'll have a lot of players coming back. We have two weeks to prepare and guys that didn't play today will be ready to go."

Fisher said he discussed with his players on Wednesday his plans for Sunday's playing time. Some would play a few plays, some would play the whole game, he said, sticking to his word.

Several players were appreciative of the time off.

"If you look back to the start of minicamp to now – it's December 28 – that's a lot of football, a lot of pounding, a lot of wear and tear," Thornton said. "So to have a game where some guys can rest – plus a bye week coming up – is definitely well deserved and good for this football team as we head into the playoffs."

The Titans could see the Colts again in two weeks with much higher stakes on the line.

"We probably guarded with a lot of our game plan. We didn't want to show a lot of things or experiment much today," Vanden Bosch said. "In a couple of weeks, hopefully we'll come back refreshed and ready to go. The important thing for us is being at home and getting that first win in Nashville."

As for the chance of losing momentum? Players say that doesn't factor in, knowing they are only two home wins away from reaching the Super Bowl.

"Even if we had won, we still had two weeks to prepare," Mawae said. "We don't even know who we're playing yet. Guys have to focus and we know we have a lot of work to get done to prepare for a big game."

"By no means does this put a damper on the momentum we feel we have," said Kerry Collins, who started at quarterback but attempted only two passes before being replaced by Vince Young.  "Now we just need to have good, sharp practices and focus on the details. Once we find out who our opponent is, we'll get back to game-planning and get ready to play from a mental standpoint."

Added cornerback Cortland Finnegan: "Momentum is for the birds. You have to roll that thing out and play the game at a high level. If it's the Colts, that's great, but we look forward to playing any team at LP Field. We have two weeks to prepare and we look forward to the next challenge at hand."

Fisher's ability to keep his team focused on the task at hand will certainly come into play over the next two weeks. He's confident his players will be ready.

"These players are professionals, they're taking care of themselves and they'll be ready to play," Fisher said. "I'm not going to sit here and dwell on this game 10 days from now. We're going to go back home, rest up, continue to improve and get ready for the first round of the playoffs."

Vanden Bosch, who is recovering from a strained groin, understands first-hand the importance of team depth, especially as the postseason draws near.

"We're going to need a lot of these guys to play in the playoffs, so that was one of the good things that came out of today's football game," he said. "At the end of the day, we finished with the best regular season record in the NFL, with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and we have a bye, so that's all we can really ask for right now."

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