Eddie George went over 100 yards rushing for the second consecutive game and Steve McNair threw for three touchdowns, enabling the Titans to edge out the Cincinnati Bengals, 30-24. The win improved the Titans to 3-4, just one game back of the division-leading Colts, setting up a showdown in Indianapolis this Sunday.
"That's just kind of how the league is right now. I guess you could say that if we're fortunate enough to win this game that we will be leading our division halfway through the season," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "Yeah, that's great but we just have to get better."
The Titans almost let their win over the 0-7 Bengals slip away. With just over one minute remaining in the game, Cincinnati faced a fourth-and-one from the Tennessee one-yard line, trailing by six. Bengals running back Corey Dillon got the ball with a clear path to the end zone, but pulling guard Matt O'Dwyer tripped and got just enough of Dillon on his way down to force him to lunge for the end zone. Officials ruled Dillon down before reaching the goal line, and instant replays proved inconclusive.
"I thought we'd won,'' Dillon said. "What are you going to do? I got tripped up and I came up short."
After falling behind 14-0, quarterback Steve McNair ignited the Tennessee offense, throwing two touchdowns to Derrick Mason and another to Kevin Dyson to put the Titans ahead 30-24. Cincinnati's final drive covered 67 yards and 6:48 of the clock.
The Titans may have to juggle their defensive personnel for the game in Indy. Starting linebacker Frank Chamberlain fractured his hand, making him questionable for this weekend's game. Even if Chamberlain is able to go, Fisher is nervous about having him play with limited capabilities.
"We haven't had much luck at the linebacker position tackling and taking on hard blocks one-handed." Fisher said.
Making the situation cloudier is nagging injuries to linebackers Randall Godfrey and John Simon, as well as to right end Corey Hall. Fisher believes Hall will be 100 percent come Sunday, but Godfrey and Simon may have to play through pain.
"I can't say what direction we'll go as far as the middle linebacker position is concerned because I'm not clear as to Randall Godfrey's status right now. He's still struggling a little bit with the ankle and we'll have to see how he is," Fisher said. "John Simon didn't play with the turf toe. That was by design. He could have probably done some things but he should be better this week."
Indianapolis rallied late but could not overcome a 20-0 deficit in Washington, dropping the Colts to 4-3.
The Redskins scored on their first four possessions of the game, including two Shane Matthews touchdown passes. The Colts then went on a 21-3 run to cut Washington's lead to two.
Washington was in control of the game at halftime, having held Indianapolis to just four first downs and 48 yards of offense. The Colts' lone first-half score came after a Stephen Davis fumble at Washington's 10 yard line.
"We didn't get much going offensively and we didn't really have much of a chance," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "We had a couple of three-and-outs and we got down 17-0. Probably the only positive was hanging in there at halftime, coming back and playing the second half and making a game of it."
A Peyton Manning touchdown pass to Ricky Williams with 6:41 remaining in the game cut the Washington lead to 23-21, but the Redskins then went on a 14-play drive that took 6:23 off the clock and ended with a James Tuthill field goal.
Despite losing two in a row, the 4-3 Colts remain alone atop the AFC South, ahead of the 3-4 Jaguars and Titans, but with Tennessee coming to town this weekend the pressure is on to get back on the right track immediately.
Unfortunately for the Colts, they will most likely have to do it without some of their key players, including Edgerrin James. James left the Redskins game in the fourth quarter with an injured hamstring and is listed as "doubtful" for Sunday.
"It looks like it's going to be awhile," Dungy said. "He's definitely not going to practice. If we get him back at the end of the week, it will be a plus, but right now it doesn't look that way."
The other Ricky Williams will start in his place. The former Texas Tech Red Raider had three carries for 21 yards and a 20-yard touchdown reception against the Redskins.
Indy's defensive line has also been hit with injuries and may need to be put together piecemeal. Tackle Josh Williams is not expected to return from a foot injury that has held him out of the past two games. Ends Chad Bratzke and Brad Scioli and tackle Larry Triplett are also banged up, but could play. The Colts may need them this weekend when Eddie George rolls into Indianapolis.
The Texans won their first-ever road contest Sunday, beating the Jaguars, 21-19.
Trailing 19-18 in the fourth quarter, the Texans needed only seven yards following a gadget punt return to set up kicker Kris Brown for a 45-yard, game-winning field goal.
With just over three minutes remaining in the game, the Jaguars sent Chris Hanson onto the field to punt from the Jacksonville 34-yard line. Jabar Gaffney, replacing usual returner Jermaine Lewis, fielded the ball at the Houston 24, ran to his right, then turned and threw a lateral across the field to Aaron Glenn, who took it all the way to the Jacksonville 33.
"It's been clear in our minds after the last two weeks why we didn't win. We had our opportunities and we had them tonight. The fact that we won speaks to the fact that our veterans and our young players are starting to figure out what this is all about," Texans coach Dom Capers said.
David Carr completed 11 of 18 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown to Billy Miller, and the Texans defense held Fred Taylor to 84 yards on 25 carries. Key in that performance were former Jaguars Seth Payne and Gary Walker. The two defensive tackles combined for eight stops.
"It's never been a matter of being beaten physically; it's been assignment errors, penalty errors. We didn't do that this week," Payne said following the win that ended a five-game losing streak.
At 2-5, the Texans may not have a playoff race to motivate them, but their game against the 0-7 Cincinnati Bengals had some spice added to it when Cincinnati receiver Chad Johnson guaranteed a victory.
"We're going to come back next week, and I assure you a win," Johnson said. "I guarantee we win next week."
That statement caught the attention of several Texans, including the boisterous Gary Walker.
"We don't look like the expansion team. I don't even know the guy. Obviously, if he's going to come out and make statements like that, he needs to show up on film a little more," Walker said.
This weekend's contest in Houston could be as interesting as it gets for a game between two teams who are a combined 2-12.