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Notebook: Titans Lead League In Red Zone Efficiency


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matt Hasselbeck loves preparing for and executing two-minute drills.

The Titans quarterback enjoys the challenge, the tempo and the satisfaction of moving the team down the field.

"I think we're pretty good at it," Hasselbeck said. "We usually do it on Fridays. That's the situation I enjoy. It's an up-tempo kind of deal and it's fun."

As much as the 13-year NFL veteran likes the hurry-up offense, he'd rather Tennessee have a lead late in the game and not rely on it for a victory.

Hasselbeck led the Titans 81 yards in 12 plays and two minutes, 47 seconds in the first half to build a 17-7 lead against Cincinnati but couldn't repeat a similar feat to tie the game at 24 in the second half.

The Titans converted third-and-11 with a 15-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook and third-and-9 with a 14-yard pass to Javon Ringer before Hasselbeck hit Lavelle Hawkins for a 16-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left in the first half.

"Our two-minute drill, we've done a good job with that," offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said. "We've got to continue to do that. Matt's very good with it, and the receivers have been. Cook was very instrumental in that drive, so we just have to keep working and executing as we go."

After the Bengals went up 24-17, the Titans received the ball with 1:55 remaining in the game. Receiver Nate Washington injured his hip during the first play of the possession. The play gained 4 yards, and because Tennessee had used all three time outs, there was also a 10-second runoff. The Titans made it to midfield with 35 seconds left, but a penalty on Hawkins result in another 10-second runoff.

"It's tougher, but I still think we could have gotten it done last week," Hasselbeck said when asked about injuries that kept Washington and Cook out and limited Hawkins, who had an open dislocated finger, during the final possession. "We just didn't, and that's the thing about the two-minute drill, you're putting all your hopes and dreams on that one last drive, and hopefully it doesn't come to that."

The injuries limited the ability to rotate players to alternate deep routes at a time when deep routes were most needed.

"It's definitely tough," receiver Damian Williams said. "We lost Nate so that was difficult. Then, 'Hawk' was banged up, and 'Cookie' went down. We were really just kind of searching for something."

IN THE ZONE: The Titans lead the league in red zone efficiency, scoring a touchdown 73.7 percent of the time when they move the ball inside an opponent's 20-yard-line.

"I think it's just an attitude," Williams said of the success. "I was telling someone the other day, 'It's a lot easier to handle going three-and-out in the middle of the field than being in the red zone and settling for a field goal.' "

Hasselbeck said he likes the shortened field because it accelerates the play. He threw touchdown passes to Williams and Hawkins in Tennessee's two trips to the red zone last week.

Williams jumped high in the back middle of the end zone, quickly and smoothly tucked the ball in his left arm and tapped his toes on a fantastic play, and Hawkins found a gap in the back right corner of the end zone to give Hasselbeck a great target.

"That's one of those fine-line plays," Williams said of his catch. "It's funny. You practice it every day: Back line, jump up, catch the ball, get your feet down. You might get that ball once a year."

Williams said he didn't think that Bengals defenders believed that he would catch the ball because no one hit him.

"I saw a picture of it at the end and you can see both of the DBs looking at me and I had just touched the ground," Williams said. "Their facial expression was, 'Did he really catch that?' It was one of those things that he knew he was that far deep, so I don't think he thought I could get behind him."

Tennessee has scored 11 passing touchdowns, three rushing TDs and taken three field goals by Rob Bironas during its 19 possessions in the red zone for a scoring percentage of 89.5. They only problem is the need to reach the red zone more often.

INJURY UPDATES:Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (groin) missed practice for the third straight day and will be listed as questionable, Titans coach Mike Munchak said Friday.

"It's just a matter of seeing how he is on Sunday now," Munchak said. "Tomorrow we'll see him here and decide from there. He's a veteran and he's been around the game quite a bit. He plays 70 snaps a game for us. He's a guy that could still play well without practice."

If Ruud is unable to play, rookie Colin McCarthy and veteran Tim Shaw are expected to fill in.

Other players who will be listed as questionable are Cook (knee), Washington (hip), fullback Ahmard Hall (back) and safety Chris Hope (forearm). Defensive end Dave Ball (concussion) will be out.

Hasselbeck, who did not practice Wednesday because of a sore knee, practiced Thursday and Friday. He will be listed as probable and expected to play.

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