Coaching in his 16th season, as the league’s longest tenured head coach, Jeff Fisher seems to have developed the “NFC touch.”
You have to go back to Oct. 14, 2007 at Tampa Bay, to find Fisher’s last loss against an NFC opponent, as Jeff Garcia led the Bucs downfield on the final drive, to help set up the game-winning 43-yard field goal by Matt Bryant, with 11 seconds to go and preserve a 13-10 victory.
The game would also have Vince Young leaving early with a leg injury, and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Carter [a former Titan] recording his 99th career sack.
With Sunday’s win in Dallas 34-27, Fisher now has won 11 consecutive games against teams from the other conference, and that streak is not only a franchise record, but also the longest current inter-conference winning streak in the NFL.
Ironically, Fisher’s first-ever win against an NFC foe came in his first full-year as the head coach of the Houston Oilers in 1995, on Oct. 29, when they beat a Sam Wyche-coached Tampa Bay team 19-7, in front of, just over 31,000 fans at the Astrodome.
Jeff Fisher took over as the interim head coach, in the final six games of the ‘94 season, when he replaced Jack Pardee. At the time, he was the defensive coordinator on that staff.
His first game would be on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants. The Oilers would lose 13-10 and subsequently Fisher would lose three more times (Arizona, Minnesota and Chicago) against NFC opponents before recording that first win against Tampa Bay.
The NFL league reeks of parity. The Chiefs' loss in Indianapolis on Sunday, guaranteed No team in the NFL would start out 4-0 this year, and that’s a first since 1970, where that has happened.
Yet, Jeff Fisher continues to ride this wave of victories against teams in the NFC.
Let’s examine some of the more memorable ones from this 11-game streak:
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 2008 at the Lions
How about the massacre in Detroit? There have been several over the years (I couldn’t resist).
The Titans ran literally all over the Lions. Chris Johnson carried the ball 16 times for 125 yards and two scores. Not to be out done, LenDale White added 106 yards on 23 rushes with two touchdowns of his own. Even defensive end Dave Ball, who was a backup at the time, got into the action. He returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown, as he leaped over the goal-line and began to flap his arms like a turkey. The Titans carved up Detroit 47-10.
Nov. 29, 2009 vs. the Cardinals
While it wasn’t that long ago, anyone remember that quarterback named Matt Leinart starting a game in Nashville? It was billed as the rematch of the Rose Bowl once it was known at game time that Kurt Warner would sit because of an injury, thrusting Leinart in as Arizona's starter.
And just as in the national championship, Vince Young one-upped his counterpart on the field.
Young passed for a career high 387-yards, including the 10-yard game winner to Kenny Britt as the clock read 00:00 at LP Field. Young led the Titans on an 18-play 99-yard drive in the final 2:37 to beat Arizona, who would make the playoffs, 20-17. Britt finished with seven catches and 128 yards.
Nov. 2, 2008 vs. the Packers
What about the one that almost foiled this entire conversation?
Kicker Rob Bironas had missed a 47-yarder off the upright to win it in regulation but would get a chance to exact his revenge in overtime. As the Titans won the coin toss, and drove 55-yards in 10 plays to set up the game winner for Bironas from 41-yards out. He nailed his fourth field goal of the day, and the Titans won 19-16, giving them an 8-0 start to the season, en route to the eventual 10 consecutive wins that opened the year.
Jan. 3, 2010 at the Seahawks
Finally, can you mention beating NFC teams and leave out the game Chris Johnson made history? With everyone watching knowing Johnson would be fed the ball as often as it took to reach 2,000 yards (he had 36 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns), the Titans still managed to win the game, 17-13. Johnson that day become only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season and also set a record for yards from scrimmage with 2,509, besting Marshall Faulk's record.
With the Titans out of the playoff chase, Johnson getting 2,000 yards was the top priority that day, whether anyone would admit that or not. But with the Titans winning that day as well, it proved icing on the proverbial cake.
I tried to see if Fisher would talk about his 11-game winning streak against the NFC, at his Monday press conference, since he was fresh off win No. 11 at Dallas.
But he decided he wasn’t going to touch that subject with the Philadelphia Eagles lurking in less than two weeks on the schedule.
He’s now coached 262 career games, including the playoffs, for the Oilers/Titans. That puts Jeff Fisher ninth on the list, as he just passed Bill Cowher (Pittsburgh), for highest total of games with one team as a head coach.
While his regular season record hovers just over .500 (139-112), and the playoff record dips below (5-6), one thing is for sure for the time being, Fisher owns the NFC.
Stay tuned to see if the streak hits 13 by season’s end, with Philadelphia and Washington to go.