EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. _ As much as the Tennessee Titans gave away last week's game, they were on the receiving end in Sunday's 29-10 victory over the New York Giants.
The Titans took advantage of two Eli Manning interceptions, a costly Ahmad Bradshaw fumble and a safety on the Giants in improving to 2-1 on the season.
The Titans defense was opportunistic, and the offense was efficient, if unspectacular in the victory
Chris Johnson finished with 125 yards and a pair of scores, but it took him 32 carries to do so, and he was bottled up until breaking off a 42-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The Titans were careful with quarterback Vince Young, who was benched the week before against the Steelers. Young threw just four passes, completing three in the first half, and wound up 10 of 16 for 118 yards.
When it was over, perhaps even the Titans had to wince at the stat sheet. The Giants did not punt at all, and Tennessee gave up 386 yards passing to Manning plus another 107 yards on the ground to the Giants' rushing attack. Still, the Titans left Meadowlands Stadium with a convincing 19-point victory.
“Basically, the bottom line is 'W' or 'L' and that's what we're trying to work for, just to win,” said defensive end Dave Ball, who had one of Tennessee's two sacks in the game. “As far as the defense, our goal is to hold them to 13 points or less. And we were able to do that.”
It was a complete about-face for the Titans, who the week before had turned the ball over seven times, but did not surrender it once against New York on Sunday.
“We buckled down and made plays. We made plays when we needed to. We got some bounces against this group, you need bounces, and there were a couple more left out there,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
The Titans pulled out to an early 10-0 lead, thanks to Rob Bironas' 48-yard field goal in the first quarter and Johnson's 1-yard touchdown plunge with 8:43 to play before the half.
The Titans' touchdown came almost entirely courtesy of Johnson, who carried the ball on nine of the 10 plays in the drive, including the TD.
In fact, with Young coming off a benching vs. Pittsburgh last week, the Titans had just four pass attempts in the entire first half, using a steady diet of CJ, even against eight and nine-man Giant fronts.
“It ain't no secret what we're gonna do each and every week. Teams are going to put a lot in the box, and we're still going to run it,” tight end Bo Scaife said.
Johnson was pleased that the Titans stuck with the run, even when the yards were tough to come by.
“My hat's off to the coaches to never get away from the running game when it's not working in the beginning,” said Johnson, who had 17 carries for 54 tough yards in the first half with no run longer than 12 yards.
The Giants, who had already missed a field goal and had passes intercepted by Sen'Derrick Marks and Jason McCourty in the first half, took to the air to tie the game before the half. Laurence Tynes made a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter, and Manning used the no-huddle to piece together a game-tying drive, capped by Ahmad Bradshaw's 10-yard run with 36 seconds left.
As quickly as the Titans let the Giants back in the game, New York took itself right out again with a disastrous third quarter.
It began with Michael Griffin downing Brett Kern's punt on the 1-yard line.
On third-and-10 from his own end zone, Manning connected with Mario Manningham for 43 yards to get the Giants out of the hole – except that Bradshaw was called for a chop block on Tony Brown in the end zone for a safety.
“I didn't see the flag; it was behind me,” Bradshaw said of the safety. “Once I saw the flag, I figured that it had to happen that way.”
That gave the Titans a 12-10 lead, and on the ensuing drive after the free kick, Tennessee loosened the reins on Young enough for him to hit on 4 of 4 passes for 38 yards on the drive, including a 13-yard TD throw to Kenny Britt for a nine-point lead.
“There were some holes that we saw out there that we could take advantage of,” Young said. “We wanted to back the defense off CJ a little bit. It was something we adjusted at halftime to come out and throw the ball around a little bit.”
After that, the Titans withstood another Giants march, stopping New York at the 5-yard line as Griffin forced a fumble by Bradshaw that rookie Alterraun Verner recovered, snuffing out yet another threat.
The Titans tacked on 10 more points for the final margin with Bironas' 22-yard field goal and Johnson's 8-yard run.
But it was the defense's efforts in staving off three of four Giants' red zone opportunities that made the difference in the game.
“Whatever you have to do to win the game, it was just keep them out of the end zone,” defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil said. “That's a big point of emphasis for us. When they get in the red zone, we have to turn them away. It takes points off the board, and today it was a big difference in the game.”