Veterans come through in victory at Baltimore

Tennessee's fifth-ranked defense has not allowed more than 17 points in nine consecutive games.
But Bulluck certainly had plenty to say to the Titans' third-year cornerback after Finnegan's altercation with Derrick Mason, a former Titan, resulted in double personal-foul penalties during the Ravens' only scoring drive of the day. On that drive, the Titans were flagged three times for that offense.

Bulluck said it right in Finnegan's face, just what a team leader does.

"We call him Fido," Bulluck said of Finnegan. "He's like a little dog, always chewing on people. That's what happened with D-Mase. He's always trying to provoke young guys. He did it when he was here and he did it in his days with us.

"He was giving it back to me. But he'll get over it. We won. He's already over it. We won and that's what we are about this year."

Bulluck is what the Titans are about these days. So are Kerry Collins and Alge Crumpler, who connected on the winning TD pass from 11 yards with 1:56 left. Along with coach Jeff Fisher, they are the veteran leaders on a young team that is 5-0 after surviving a brutal struggle against a physical team in which 21 penalties were enforced.

Remember, the Titans are a team that in recently years have been known for Adam "Pacman" Jones' off-field transgressions and Albert Haynesworth's over-the-top play on it -- a stomp of Dallas' Andre Gurode two years ago that got him a five-game suspension. And remember that their prize young quarterback, Vince Young, not only injured a knee early in the season, but endured a personal crisis that had Fisher alerting the police in alarm.

Collins, who had his own personal demons as a youngster, took over and is the full-time quarterback now, a 35-year-old, 14-year veteran who is the game manager on a team that depends on its defense. He had his problems with the Baltimore defense -- who doesn't? -- but he managed to get the Titans 80 yards in 11 plays on that late drive for the winning TD pass to Crumpler, who had just five catches for 46 yards in his first four games as a Titan.

It wasn't a pretty game for Collins, who had two early interceptions, one of them tipped. But it was better than his last start against the Ravens, in the 2001 Super Bowl with the Giants, when he threw four interceptions, was sacked four times and had an almost invisible passer rating of 7.1.

"It's hard to forget that one," Collins said with a smile. "Sure I thought about that. But this wasn't personal. I just wanted to come out with a win."

Bulluck, in his ninth season with the Titans, has memories of that same 2000 season, when he was a rookie. After finishing 13-3 in the regular season, they lost their first playoff game at home to Baltimore -- a matchup every bit as brutal as Sunday's and the first postseason win in what turned out to be a Super season for the Ravens.

Crumpler, of course, just escaped from Atlanta this season, one of a number of refugees from the post-Vick, post-Petrino Falcons. His touchdown collaboration with Collins was the work of two veterans who have done it before, although never with each other. It featured a quick nod from Crumpler to Collins for a post-corner route, and a perfect pass against a defense that never provides many openings.

"He's been a little slow off the mark, but we know what we have with Alge," Fisher said. "Having him in the locker room is another good part of the blend we're building."

The feeling is mutual, especially after Crumpler's experience with the Falcons, where from 2001-2008 he had five different head coaches.

"I don't want to go into that. I promised myself I wouldn't go into that," Crumpler said. "All I want to say is that I enjoy a team with a stable coaching atmosphere. Trust me on that."

Fisher, on the other hand, has been with the Titans/Oilers franchise since 10 games through the 1994 season, the longest current tenure with one team of any active NFL coach.

Stable goes both ways.

Crumpler, Collins and Bulluck are among the guys who appreciate Fisher. And Fisher appreciates having them as the glue of a 5-0 team.

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