12:30 PM ET, November 27, 2008
Ford Field, Detroit, MI
The Tennessee Titans are looking to rebound from a loss for the first time this year.
That's the way the Detroit Lions have spent their entire season.
If there's a good way to bounce back from a defeat, it would seem to be a matchup with the Detroit Lions, who must beat the AFC-best Titans to avoid emerging from their annual Thanksgiving Day game with a winless record for the second time in franchise history.
"No one is quitting, but we don't know how to win," said Lions defensive tackle Shaun Cody.
While Detroit (0-11) is getting closer to becoming the first team to go 0-16, Tennessee saw its hopes of a perfect regular season disappear on Sunday with a 34-13 loss to the New York Jets.
That defeat brought the Titans (10-1) back down to earth as they were outplayed on both sides of the ball, getting outgained 409-281 even though they were at home. It was the most points they had allowed in nearly two years.
"We weren't worried about being undefeated," defensive tackle Tony Brown said. "We were trying to win as many games as we could. ... (Sunday) was a good test for us. It's going to test our courage and how we're going to bounce back."
Tennessee still has a two-game lead in the AFC for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, not to mention a three-game edge over Indianapolis for the AFC South lead.
"We are still in the driver's seat, and everybody else is playing catch-up," linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
The Lions won't be catching anyone that matters, but they have an opportunity to give their fans a thrill by impressing a national television audience with a win over the team which shares the league's best record.
The only time Detroit has not had at least one victory through its Thanksgiving Day game came in 2001, when it took an 0-12 record into mid-December. The team finished 0-11 in 1942 but did not play on Thanksgiving due to World War II.
The Lions have lost 12 in a row overall and 18 of 19.
"The record is on me," coach Rod Marinelli said. "I've never used an excuse."
Detroit is 3-6 all-time versus the Titans, including a 24-21 loss in 1992 in the only Thanksgiving game between the franchises.
Controlling the ground game had been a key to Tennessee's strong start, but that has not been as easy to do lately. The rushing attack has been slowed down, averaging 59.7 yards and 2.5 per carry over the last three weeks. In the last two games, the run defense has given up 332 yards and four touchdowns on 71 attempts.
Running the ball is one of the few areas in which Detroit has performed well lately, rushing for more than 100 yards in three straight games. However, the Lions have the worst run defense in the league, giving up 166.7 yards per game.
That could bode well for Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Johnson is the AFC's second leading rusher with 833 yards, but has been held to 118 on 41 carries with no touchdowns over the last three games. White got only one carry against the Jets, and he's been limited to one rushing TD over the last four weeks after having 10 through seven games.
Kerry Collins had stepped up in place of the rushing attack lately and performed reasonably well Sunday, but could not come up with the big plays when Tennessee needed them and saw his receivers drop plenty of passes. Collins was 21-of-39 for 243 yards with one touchdown, and did not throw an interception for the fifth time in six games.
"We don't have much time to feel sorry for ourselves," he said. "We've got to be able to move on."
His counterpart will be Daunte Culpepper, maybe only because Detroit hardly has any other options. Culpepper was benched in the third quarter last week as the Lions blew an early 17-point lead in a 38-20 home loss to Tampa Bay.
He returned late in the game because Drew Stanton left with a concussion, and finished 8-of-20 for 121 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. With Jon Kitna out for the season, and both Stanton and Dan Orlovsky unlikely to be available, the Lions had to sign Drew Henson off the practice squad just to have a backup.
Culpepper is the latest quarterback to join in the Lions' tradition of hosting a game on Thanksgiving, a day on which Detroit is 33-33-2 all-time. The Lions have lost their last four games on the holiday, getting outscored 132-52.
"It gives my friends and family a chance to watch me on national TV and we're still looking for our first win," rookie offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus told the team's official Web site. "There's no better way to go there and get it done on Thursday when the whole nation is watching. Our record is not who we are."
Both teams want to establish Johnson on Thanksgiving
The first of three Thanksgiving games this year very well could have been an undefeated Titans team versus the winless Lions, but Tennessee ruined it by losing its first game of the season this past week to the Jets. After Detroit started off very strong at home with a 17-0 lead Sunday against Tampa Bay, the wheels came off -- as usual -- and the Lions ended up getting blown out by another superior opponent. The short week for both teams usually favors the home team, and Detroit will need any advantage it can muster.
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|Avg Points Allowed||14.6||32.8|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||TEN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||TEN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Tennessee leads 3-0|
|Jan 2, 2005||TEN 24, DET 19|
|Oct 21, 2001||TEN 27, @DET 24|