Jack Del Rio says he is not offended by Jeff Fisher's "chopping wood" quip, but Del Rio is concerned about what Fisher may have up his sleeve in the way of special teams tricks this Sunday.
"I witnessed his playing that verbal sparring game with Billick a couple of years back," Del Rio said of a time when he was Ravens head coach Brian Billick's linebackers coach. Del Rio said Fisher's jab at the Jaguars this week was just a way of having fun, and when it was suggested Del Rio have some fun with the Ravens' playoff win over Fisher and the Titans in 2000, Del Rio declined. "He can have more fun at his press conferences now," Del Rio said, obviously referring to the current records of the Titans and the Jaguars.
This Sunday's game at Alltel Stadium is expected to produce another win on the way to the playoffs for the 4-2 Titans. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are attempting to establish some respectability in the AFC South standings, where they are 1-5. Time will tell.
"It's a division game, a home game and a game we need very badly. We hope the crowd comes out and is very loud for us," Del Rio said. To that end, more than 9,000 tickets remain available and the game is certain to become the third TV blackout of the season.
Del Rio wasn't willing at today's press conference to delve into the history of the Titans-Jaguars rivalry, which has been a sore subject for the Jaguars since they lost three times to the Titans in the 1999 season. "I don't have any theories on what transpired before we got here," Del Rio said.
But the rookie head coach knows this: Turnovers have been the Jaguars' downfall.
The Jaguars were minus-15 in turnover differential (23 turnovers to eight takeaways) in the last nine games between the two teams. The Jaguars were also minus-16 in sacks differential (30 sacks allowed to 14 sacks made), and those two numbers are at the heart of the Titans' 7-2 domination.
"If you lose the turnover battle, the percentages are really against you," Del Rio said.
So, the formula for success this Sunday is for rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich to avoid the interceptions that plagued him against Houston and Miami, and for running back Fred Taylor to halt his recent bout with fumbleitis. To that end, Taylor has spent the last two weeks of practice encouraging defensive teammates to try to strip the ball from his grasp.
Limiting Titans quarterback Steve McNair's productivity is certainly an ingredient in the Jaguars' gameplan, and there is also a distinct focus on not being caught unaware by Titans special teams.
That's what the Titans did to the previously-undefeated Panthers last Sunday in building an early lead. And Jaguars fans will remember that a fake-punt play just before halftime went a long way toward the Titans' first of two wins over the Jaguars last year.
"One of the things that stands out is what they're doing with their special teams. They've always had a history of gadget plays," Del Rio said.
Ah, yes, history … as in verbal jousts by Fisher and frustration for the Jaguars. Theories, anyone?