Titans enjoy difference between 1-4, 5-2 starts

Updated: October 21, 2003, 3:11 PM ET
ESPN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans are so relaxed these days that even coach Jeff Fisher is having some fun.

"The big thing for this week is we've just got to keep chopping wood," Fisher said Monday.

That's a friendly dig at fellow Southern California alum and current Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, who had to place Chris Hanson on injured reserve last week after the punter hurt himself with an ax left in the Jaguars' locker room.

Yes, it's easy to make jokes when you're 5-2, a big improvement from last year, when the Titans spent most of the season digging themselves out of a 1-4 hole. And they are looking even better after knocking off Carolina, one of the NFL's last undefeated teams, 37-17 on Sunday.

Now, players who avoided the locker room last October when reporters came to talk are hanging out playing games, watching DVDs or just talking on their cell phones. Linebacker Keith Bulluck said that's a big difference.

"You can walk around with a smile on your face easier when things are going good at work," he said. "It's like anyone else's job."

The Titans have a chance to go into their bye week at 6-2 if they can beat Jacksonville on Sunday in their fifth road game of the season. That would set Tennessee up nicely with five of its remaining eight games at home, where the Titans have won eight straight.

"We have to build on that," Fisher said. "Our whole deal right now is to find a way to be 6-2 before the bye week. We can take a deep breath, and we can get started on the second half of the season."

They are on a roll, having scored 30 points in four straight games for the first time since 1962, when they were called the Houston Oilers and George Blanda was quarterback.

Steve McNair has been the key, and now that his left knee is healthy again, he is running around even more and making plays. He ran for 30 yards, including a touchdown, against Carolina, and remains the top-rated quarterback in the NFL.

The defense also has scored in three of the last four games, counting Bulluck's 32-yard fumble return. A unit that had been suspect against the run held Stephen Davis to just 20 yards on 11 carries, and the Titans forced four turnovers that resulted in 20 points.

The biggest problem now is getting Eddie George and the running game going. The Titans might be getting closer because they rushed for a season-high 134 yards Sunday, even though George had only 51 on 18 carries. Robert Holcombe carried 16 times for 53 yards, and mixed with McNair's yards, the Titans averaged 3.7 per carry.

The Titans also hope to have cornerback Samari Rolle (left elbow) and tight end Frank Wycheck (concussion) back after the bye, which would put the team at full strength as it starts preparing for a different set of challenges.

"Now teams are hunting for you whereas when you're a 1-4 team, teams might be overlooking you," Bulluck said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index