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JOESAM2002 09-21-2003 09:37 AM

Five keys......


Sunday September 21, 2003

Brian Allee-Walsh

PUMP UP THE VOLUME: The Coliseum is regarded as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, so it's imperative that quarterback Aaron Brooks and the offense remain calm and stay focused. Of course, the best way to take the crowd out of the game is to take the lead early and keep the pedal to the metal. Avoid pre-snap penalties, and keep the second- and third-and-long situations to a minimum.

CONTAIN 'THE FREAK' AND 'SUPERMAN': Keep your eyes trained on the matchups between Saints left tackle Wayne Gandy and Titans right defensive end Jevon Kearse and Saints right tackle Victor Riley and Titans left defensive end Kevin Carter. Kearse and Carter might be the NFL's best one-two punch in rushing the passer. But Gandy and Riley are capable of slowing them down. This should be entertaining.

REPLACEMENT PLAYERS: Cornerback Dale Carter (orbital socket), strongside linebacker Sedrick Hodge (knee), defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan (knee), defensive end Darren Howard (wrist) and strong safety Mel Mitchell (knee) are out. Fred Thomas, Roger Knight, Kenny Smith, Willie Whitehead and Jay Bellamy are in. Consider: Carter and Sullivan were first-round draft picks; Howard a second-round pick, Hodge a third-round pick and Mitchell a fifth-round pick. Thomas was a second-round pick, Smith a third-round pick, Knight a sixth-round pick and Whitehead and Bellamy were not drafted.

GORGE GEORGE: Titans running back Eddie George is starting his 115th consecutive game, the most by a running back at the beginning of his NFL career. He has posted 34 100-yard rushing games. Of those 34 games, the Titans have won 27. George has struggled this season, rushing 35 times for a meager 88 yards and no touchdowns. The Saints passed on George with the 11th pick of the first round in the 1996 NFL draft and selected cornerback Alex Molden.

PRESSURE MCNAIR: Titans quarterback Steve McNair enters today's game with knee and finger injuries. So what else is new? The Saints' defense must get to him early and often and make him pay a price when he strays from the pocket. He is capable of carrying the Titans. The idea is to stop George and make the Titans become a one-dimensional offense.

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