The Titans are allowing a league-low 14.1 points per game after the offense scored 31 against Pittsburgh last week. They have held opponents to 17 points or less in 13 of 15 games so far this season, and they allowed 211 points overall, which gives them a 12-point edge over the Steelers who are allowing 14.9 points per game.
"Absolutely we take pride in that, not giving up points but yards," cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. "We'd rather not give up either. But if we don't give up points, they can't win games."
This franchise has never led the NFL in scoring defense. They set the team record by allowing a mere 11.9 points per game in 2000 but finished second to Baltimore.
Safety Chris Hope said finishing first in that category would reflect the team's coaching and leadership, how hard the Titans work as a group with backups pushing starters.
"We have a standard set here, and we intend on keeping it," Hope said.
The Titans posted the first 10-0 start this season in franchise history and earned the No. 1 seed overall for only the second time.
"It's just exciting and just a blessing to be a part of," Hope said.
If they finish fifth in yards allowed or better, it would be the first time since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger that this team has posted consecutive seasons ranked among the league's top five in total defense. The Titans rank fifth in yards allowed per game (287.2), where they finished 2007. They are fourth against the run (91.9) and eighth against the pass (195.3).
To Indianapolis safety Bob Sanders, points allowed is the best measure of a defense.
"If you give a team a lot of opportunity, a lot of chances to score and they're putting points on the board, that lessens your chances of winning. It doesn't matter about the yards. You want to hold a team to less rushing yards and hold them to (few) big plays in the passing game," Sanders said.
"Overall, the score really means everything."
The Titans held opponents to 17 or fewer points over a nine-game stretch that started last season and ended Oct. 27 when Indianapolis scored 21 points in a 31-21 Tennessee win. That set a franchise record and ranked second only to the San Francisco 49ers, who did that over 10 straight games in 1990-91.
That is why Tennessee also enjoys the best point differential in the NFL at 164 or 10.9 points per game, two points better than the New York Giants.
CHRISTMAS OFF: One benefit for the Titans beating Pittsburgh and clinching the AFC's No. 1 seed came Thursday when coach Jeff Fisher gave them the day off. No practice, no meetings. Just a day to spend with the family. Players with injuries needing treatment still had to come by.
Kerry Collins called it nice to have the holiday off.
"Fish gave us the day off, and I think everybody's real appreciative of that. I'm sure everybody will enjoy it a lot," he said.
The Titans resume preparations for the regular season finale on Friday, and Fisher said they deserved the day off.
"They've done a great job all year staying focused and then backing down and refocusing and that's what we have to do. ... We'll come back Friday refocused on the ballgame, and they'll be fine," Fisher said.
That had players swapping presents Wednesday, and the most impressive might have been from Cortland Finnegan to safety Vincent Fuller. Finnegan got his mother to help round up clips and photos of Fuller from high school, his days at Virginia Tech and with the Titans — then put it all together in a framed display.
"It came out great," Finnegan said.
The cornerback himself was happy with his gift, a new pair of shoes.
"I'm like a woman when it comes to shoe," Finnegan joked. "I can't get enough."
SWEET DECEMBER: The Titans have a chance Sunday to wrap up a third straight winning record in the month of December. The Titans rank fifth in the NFL for December winning percentage since 1995 under coach Jeff Fisher at 38-25, trailing Green Bay (45-17), New England (43-17), Indianapolis (39-23) and Pittsburgh (38-24).
Tennessee went 4-1 in 2006 and 2007. In Fisher's 14 full seasons, this team has had only three losing records in the month of December. Those came in 1997 (1-2) in the team's first year after relocating from Houston and 2004 and 2005 (1-4 each year) when the team was hit first by injuries, then rebuilding from a salary cap mess.
2009 SCHEDULE: The Tennessee Titans already know all but one of their opponents for the 2009 season. They will host AFC South rivals Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville along with Buffalo and Miami from the AFC East with Arizona, St. Louis and the winner of Sunday's San Diego-Denver game.
In addition to visiting the three other teams in the AFC South, the Titans also will travel to New England, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and the Seahawks. It will be the franchise's first visit to Seattle's Qwest Field, which is good because this team lost its last five trips to the Kingdome.
PLAYOFF NUMBERS:This is the 21st time this franchise has reached the playoffs in its 49-year history and second straight. Their AFC South title is their ninth divisional title overall but just the second time the Titans have been the No. 1 seed.