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Know the Foe: Titans Prepare to Locate, Block NFL Sacks Leader Robert Mathis

Posted Nov 13, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans said they expect to see the No. 98 Colts jersey of Robert Mathis line up at multiple places when Tennessee hosts Indianapolis on Thursday Night Football.

“They do a really good job of moving him around,” Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Obviously without (Dwight) Freeney there, they know people are going to slide to him, chip him and do all that stuff. They’ve been more creative. He used to be on (right tackle David) Stewart’s side every time, but now they move him around a lot.”

David Stewart has matched up with Robert Mathis numerous times over the years, and the Titans know the importance of blocking Mathis, who has already set a career high with 13.5 sacks this season.

The Colts list Mathis as their “Rush” linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. It’s the spot Freeney played last season while Mathis was the “Sam” linebacker as Indianapolis transitioned to a 3-4 from the 4-3 that used to have the duo bookending the defensive line.

Wherever he’s been this season, Mathis has found results. He’s leading the NFL with 13.5 sacks through just nine games. That total has already surpassed his previous season bests of 11.5 in 2005 and again in 2008.

“Mathis is still as good as any defensive end in football,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said.

Mathis has 105 sacks for his career, which is 24th all-time in the NFL and the third-highest total for a player since 2003 when he began his pro career. He leads the league with 42 forced fumbles during that time span.

“I think obviously numbers speak for themselves,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s a tremendous football player, and he can wreck a game like many of the guys the Titans have up front. He’s a tremendous football player, very, very explosive, very, very passionate about football. He’s been able to do it over a long period of time because of his work ethic, his drive and determination, how he plays this game.”

Tennessee has done a better job of limiting Mathis than AFC South members Houston and Jacksonville. The former fifth-round pick in his 11th season has recorded six career sacks against the Titans, but has 15.5 against the Texans and 12.5 against the Jaguars.

The Titans know the importance of protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will make his third start of the season. Fitzpatrick is replacing Jake Locker in the lineup after Locker suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury Sunday. Tennessee will also be starting veteran Chris Spencer at center instead of Brian Schwenke (ankle), but hopes that David Stewart (shoulder) will be able to return after missing two starts. Stewart practiced fully the past two days is probable. If for some reason he is unable to go, it’s likely that Mike Otto would start for the third consecutive week.

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