By Cedric Williams
The second half of an up-and-down 2013 NFL season will begin for the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, when they’ll host the Tennessee Titans at the Edward Jones Dome in a matchup of young teams still trying to find their footing this season.
Like the Rams, Tennessee’s season has had some really high peaks (the Titans began the year by winning three of their first four games), and some very low valleys (the Titans are currently on a three-game losing streak).
And what’s made that low point last even longer is Tennessee, which will hit town on Sunday with a 3-4 record, is the Titans have had to stew over their losing streak for nearly two weeks since they had their bye last week.
“Shame on us,” Tennessee safety Bernard Pollard told The Tennessean, following that 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers back on October 20. “It is fun when you are sitting on that horse, and you are riding. That is so fun. When you get knocked off that horse, we have to figure out a way to get back on it. We haven’t been playing good, and we continue to beat ourselves. Something has to change.”
Tennessee on Offense
On offense, the Titans rank 27th overall, which is sixth-worst in the entire league, in total yards gained.
Much of that problem has stemmed from a passing game that ranks 25th overall, despite the strong start to the season had by quarterback Jake Locker, who threw six touchdown passes and no interceptions in Tennessee’s first four games.
Locker, who has eight touchdowns and 1,047 yards this season, was injured for the better part of three games, and backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick—a former Ram—played terribly, with four INTs in two-and-a-half games as Locker’s replacement.
At running back, Tennessee features one of the most explosive players in the league in Chris Johnson, but he hasn’t really had many break out moments this year—except for a couple of long catch-and-runs.
In fact, Johnson hasn’t scored a single rushing touchdown all season, and is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry in 2013.
The one consistent bright spot for the Titans has been the play of receivers Nate Washington and Kendall Wright, who both have over 400 receiving yards this season.
Washington leads the club with 439, while Wright leads Tennessee in receptions, with 40.
Tight end Delanie Walker, who played at the University of Central Missouri and joined the Titans this year after seven stellar seasons with the 49ers, leads the Titans with three touchdown catches this year.
Tennessee on Defense
For much of the season, the Titan defense has been ranked among the top 10 best in the league.
After last week’s games though, Tennessee slipped to No. 13.
It wasn’t through any fault of their own. Green Bay, Oakland, and New Orleans all had terrific games on defense last week, and were each able to leap frog the Titans in defensive yards allowed, which pushed Tennessee down three more slots.
But the Titans took pride in being a top 10-rated defense, so the Rams can expect a Tennessee club on Sunday that’s not only looking to even its record at 4-4, but will also be looking to move its defensive ranking back into the top 10.
The Titans are especially good in pass coverage, where cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner are one of the best young CB tandems in the league.
At safety, the trio of Pollard, Michael Griffin, and George Wilson have been outstanding in both run support and pass coverage on tight ends and backs coming out of the backfield.
The Rams lead the all-time series with the Titans 7-4, which dates back to the franchises’ first meeting in 1973, when the Rams were still in Los Angeles and the Titans were still in Houston and were still called the Oilers.
Since the Rams moved to St. Louis, the teams have played just four times with each club winning two.
The last game in St. Louis was in 2005, with the Rams winning 31-27.
The most memorable meeting for these two clubs came in January 2000, when St. Louis beat Tennessee 23-16 to win Super Bowl XXXIV.
Current Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was the coach of the Titans back then, and to commemorate the victory, St. Louis will wear its 1999-2000 championship throwback uniforms on Sunday.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.