Titans use kid gloves to grab victories

Rookie McAlister joins list of Nashville corner targets

October 11, 1999|By Andrew Humbles | Andrew Humbles,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' winning touchdown, a 27-yard pass from Neil O'Donnell to Yancey Thigpen in the third quarter yesterday, was a setup job.

The pass came against rookie cornerback Chris McAlister, starting his first game in the Ravens' 14-11 loss to Tennessee.

"I kind of stuttered at about 12 yards and he bit on it," Thigpen said. "We felt as though they had some young corners and once they got comfortable in their positions and felt like they could make the play, then we could set them up later."

The Titans are familiar with rookie cornerbacks. They've faced four in five games, including Charles Fisher (Cincinnati), Daylon McCutcheon (Cleveland) and Fernando Bryant (Jacksonville). The only team that didn't have a rookie corner, San Francisco, is the Titans' lone loss.

"When we came off the sideline early in the game, they were biting on a lot of our routes," O'Donnell said, "and we knew basically we had to take a shot downfield.

"We moved the ball around hoping we'd get something later because I knew we wouldn't have many big plays. They are very talented and like to keep everything in front of them."

Thigpen, who caught five passes for 99 yards, was one of eight different receivers O'Donnell went to.

"We knew they were young, but in this league you don't start if you're not good," Thigpen said. "He [McAlister] actually came back and played a pretty good game."

O'Donnell hit 24 of 35 passes for 216 yards without an interception to go along with a touchdown pass.

He seemed to go after McAlister early then spread the ball around as the game went on, often going underneath. Running back Eddie George also caught five passes for 23 yards.

"We tested him early, I won't lie to you," said Tennessee's Isaac Byrd, who caught three passes for 22 yards.

"But he played well, he's tall [6 feet 1] and very physical. But we felt being a rookie, sooner or later "

Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson caught four passes for 34 yards.

"Whoever is out there, we're going to go after. It just looks like we're going after a rookie since we've seen one every game but one," Dyson said.

The Titans had to rely on their passing game with another subpar performance rushing the ball. Coming into the game Tennessee ranked 30th out of 31 teams and averaging 69.3 yards per game, and yesterday Tennessee didn't even match that by gaining 56 yards. George was held to 55 yards on 20 carries.

"As long as Eddie George is in the game, teams fear him," Byrd said. "Sooner or later they know he's going to have a breakout game."

"We didn't have the success we hoped for," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. "If you looked down on the line of scrimmage most of the game, that's the reason for it. We ran the ball when we were given the opportunity and made some plays on the ground on key third downs."

Fisher was "very concerned," however, about the team's 15 penalties for an NFL-record 212 yards.

"It seemed like we had every kind of penalty known to man happen out there today," Fisher said. "We won the game, but we've got to play better football. We've got to stop playing football like this. I'm elated in the win, but disappointed in the play."

Yellow flags

The Titans set an NFL record for most penalty yards in a game but managed to win. The most penalty yards in league history:

Yds Team Opp. Date

212 Tenn. Ravens 10/10/99

209 Cleve. Chi. Bears 11/25/51

191 Phila. Sea. 12/13/92*

190 T. Bay Sea. 10/17/76

* -Overtime game

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