Manning, Colts try to snap skid vs woeful Titans

SportsFootballHuman InterestBaltimore ColtsNFLChris Johnson (baseball)Tony Romo

Trying to snap out of the funk he's beenin for three games, Peyton Manning is heading to a town to play ateam that could help him do just that.

Tennessee is struggling even more than the four-time MVP, going10 quarters without an interception and 13 without scoring anoffensive touchdown. The Titans (5-7) have lost five straight, andnow here comes Manning, who routinely puts up some of his bestperformances against them.

The banged-up Colts (6-6) have lost three straight themselves,and Manning says there's a sense of urgency for both teams goinginto Thursday night's game. The AFC South has only been won bythese two teams, yet Jacksonville leads Indianapolis by a game andTennessee by two.

"I think it's about how you respond to it," Manning said. "Iknow both teams are coming off of disappointing losses. I thinkthat sometimes a short week might be the best medicine for that. Iknow both teams are looking forward to playing."

Manning isn't happy with his career-worst 11 interceptions overthe past three games, four returned for touchdowns. But he's stilla top passer, and his next TD pass will make him the first in NFLhistory to throw 25 touchdown passes in 13 straight seasons.

The Titans struggled to slow Manning's brother Eli, Kyle Ortonof Denver and Tony Romo in Dallas, and that was when they werewinning. Now they're struggling to even run the ball, with ChrisJohnson having only 20 carries for 58 yards over the past twogames, including last week's 17-6 loss to Jacksonville.

They expect Manning at his sharpest despite the fourinterceptions in each of the past two losses, includingIndianapolis' 38-35 overtime defeat to Dallas on Sunday.

"The concern is that eventually that stops," Titans coach JeffFisher said. "That's the concern. With tipped balls and thingslike that he's got somebody in his face, he doesn't see theunderneath drop defender and the guy picks the ball off. Those arethings that happen to all quarterbacks."

Still, the Titans agree it's very strange to see so many ofManning's passes wind up in defenders' hands. The Colts have wonthree straight against Tennessee, and Manning is 11-5 against theTitans with just 13 interceptions in those games.

"He may be pressing, trying," Titans cornerback CortlandFinnegan said. "He loves throwing touchdowns. He's got a lot ofguys in his face, too. That's why he has some errant throws."

Manning will be getting someone he knows well in a backfieldmissing Joseph Addai after the Colts signed Dominic Rhodes. Thatshould help considering the defense lost starting cornerbackJerraud Powers to injured reserve Tuesday.

Finnegan is the guy who aggravated Texans receiver Andre Johnsonso much while defending him throughout their game that Johnsonpunched him three times in the head in the fourth quarter. TheTitans are likely to put Finnegan on Colts receiver Reggie Waynethroughout this game, especially because Wayne had 14 catches for200 yards last week.

"It's going to be a chance for me to make some plays, and it'sgoing to be a good thing," Finnegan said.

Manning will have plenty of chances to target Titans rookiecornerback Alterraun Verner, who thinks he was 10 the year Manningentered the NFL.

"I'm definitely not scared," said Verner, who has twointerceptions. "That just means more opportunity for me. I'm 100percent sure he's going to come after me."

The Titans are almost happy to see Manning after giving up 258yards rushing to Jacksonville. Staying on the field offensively andscoring are the Titans' top priorities. They rank last in the NFLin time of possession, and this will be the first time sincemid-October the same quarterback has started consecutive games forTennessee, with Kerry Collins behind center.

Tight end Bo Scaife, who heard the ball thudding off his chestfor two days after dropping a touchdown pass against the Jaguars,said the best fix to energize the Titans will be letting Johnsonrun wild against a defense giving up 142.8 yards rushing per game.

"He's our engine. When we get him going, it seems like everyonecan breathe a little easier," Scaife said.

Indianapolis and Tennessee still could win the division bywinning out.

"That is a good thing when you are looking at the silverlining," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "That is a good thing atthis point in time, but we have to do something about it."

The Titans have been booed heavily by their home fans in each oftheir last two games, both losses. Empty seats are expected in asold-out stadium. The Titans insist they want to give the fanssomething to cheer and improve on a home record that's just 2-4.

"It's kind of awkward to be 5-7 but still have an opportunityif things play out right, to still have an opportunity to go to theplayoffs," Titans safety Michael Griffin said. "Right now I thinkour backs are against the wall, and this is a must win this week.If not, the season is pretty much over."

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