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Colts defense still not fixed


The Indianapolis Colts remained tied with the Jaguars atop the AFC South division with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but it wasn't as easy as anticipated.

The Bengals entered the game having been outscored 119-23 during their 0-4 start. The Colts jumped out to a 21-0 lead, but they needed three second-half interceptions to hold on for a 28-21 win.

Cornerback Walt Harris accounted for two of those interceptions, but it was safety Idrees Bashir's pick on the Colts' 23-yard line that finally put the game out of reach.

"It's fun to talk about winning but it's also good when you can win and not play as well as we need to play. We've still got plenty of room for improvement, but we did win a ballgame at home, which is what we wanted to do," Colts coach Tony Dungy said.

The focus of Dungy's attention in the near future will lie with the Colts' front seven. Indianapolis is ranked 29th in the NFL in both rushing defense (145.0) and yards allowed per rush (4.8), a weakness that was exploited by Cincinnati and running back Corey Dillon. Dillon rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, with 110 yards coming in the second half.

"We're still not playing where we want to play," defensive tackle James Cannida said. "We gave up a lot of big plays in the running game. That's something coming into this game that we said we wanted to stop."

Peyton Manning paced the Colts with 224 yards passing and two touchdowns, much of that going to Marvin Harrison, who finished with 145 yards receiving and a touchdown.

The Colts will stay in the RCA Dome this week to take on the suddenly potent Baltimore Ravens (2-2). The Ravens, however, may be without the heart of their team, Ray Lewis, who dislocated his shoulder in Sunday night's 26-21 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans surrendered the game's final 21 points in losing 31-14 to the Washington Redskins Sunday. That, however, is not the biggest problem for Titans coach Jeff Fisher. Disappointing the boss is.

Titans owner Bud Adams left the loss early and expressed his dismay to The Tennessean on the way out.

"I'm very disappointed," Adams said. "I came in here thinking we were going to get a win and we didn't look very good. Right now I'm not very happy with what we're putting on the field and it looks to me like we're getting out-coached."

But don't expect Fisher to push the panic button just yet. He says he understands the reason for concern but he knows the situation the team is in and what needs to be fixed.

"Like I said after the game, we're all frustrated. He has every right to be frustrated. Mr. Adams has done an awful lot to allow us to put this club on the field. He's paying players and staff very well and he did not expect to be 1-4 at this point in the season. I know exactly what we're doing well and where we need to improve, as far as staff is concerned and the players are concerned," Fisher said.

The Titans have now lost four in a row, having blown second-half leads in three of those games. They are also facing injuries to key players. In addition to the week-one loss of Jevon Kearse, the Titans have also seen cornerback Samari Rolle, receiver Derrick Mason, cornerback Mike Echols and Kearse's backup, Carlos Hall, go down in recent weeks with injuries.

Rolle and Hall, however, may be available to play against the Jaguars Sunday. Rolle, who went down with a mild hamstring strain one week ago, did start and finish against the Washington Redskins. Hall will have arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. The Titans, however, are hoping he can postpone that surgery for a week so he might play this week against the Jaguars before Tennessee enters a bye week.

Tennessee's defense, which is giving up nearly 32 points a game, is 27th in the league.

Offensively, Tennessee is experiencing problems as well, beginning with the lack of a consistent running game. Eddie George was contained, yet, again on Sunday, picking up just 26 yards on 10 carries. George has yet to rush for more than 65 yards through five games.

"I think we all still have it, it's just a matter of finding it," LB Keith Bulluck said. "We need to get a win to see what it's like to come back in on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday after a win."

Houston Texans

The 1-3 Texans are coming off a bye week to host a Buffalo Bills team that can light up the scoreboard, offensively and defensively.

Houston's defense, currently fifth in the AFC, is tasked with the chore of slowing down Drew Bledsoe and a Bills offense that is averaging 327 yards passing and 32.6 points a game.

"Every game they've played they've moved the ball up and down the field," Texans coach Dom Capers said. "Drew gives them a guy back there who can throw it anywhere on the field. They have a very talented receiving corps and they're capable of making big plays."

The other side of the ball could get interesting, when the Texans' 32nd-ranked offense goes against a Bills defense that is giving up the most points in the NFL (36.0).

Houston offense will have some added help Sunday. Left guard Ryan Schau and receiver Jermaine Lewis should both be ready to play. Capers also told the Houston media tackles Tony Boselli and Ryan Young have a shot to make their first appearances in a Texans uniform next week at Cleveland.

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