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Notebook: Titans Expect Cardinals Defense to Pose Tough Challenge

Posted Dec 11, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s three-week road trip has ended, but the Titans are expecting a difficult path Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals visit LP Field.

The 3:25 p.m. (CT) matchup is pitting teams who have headed opposite directions since they were both 3-4 through their first seven games. The Titans have lost four of their past six to go to 5-8 and the Cardinals have won five of six to go to 8-5.

Arizona now ranks fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per game (311.7), third in rushing yards/game (84.5), and seventh in points allowed/game (19.8).

"They’re a talented defense. They’re up there with the best we’ve played this year,” Fitzpatrick said. “Statistically, they’re up there, and sometimes the stats lie, but when you turn on the film with these guys, it’s a good group. I think it starts up front with them. They’ve got a real active, big, physical front seven, and they’ve also got a lot of experience there so they’re a really good group and talented on the back end as well. We’ll have our hands full, but hopefully we’re up to the challenge.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said teams have to “know how to attack a team like them” and said protecting the passer will be an important first step. The Cardinals have 38 sacks on the season, led by 11 from offseason signee John Abraham.

“They have a lot of sacks, a lot of pressures; they’re playing very confident right now,” Munchak said. “They have a nice mix of veterans that have been around for quite a while and have played well in this league. They’re big. Like I said, the reason they’ve went 5-1 in my opinion is they’ve created turnovers, sacks. They’ve allowed the offense not to worry about doing too much in games by how they’ve played.

“For us, we have to find ways, which I think we will, to have some success with them running the football, having the right person on the field, getting the right matchups that we want because this is a team where you have to be smart about how you attack them,” Munchak said. “They are very good at what they do, and they can make it miserable for quarterbacks as they did last week with the Rams.”

Abraham had three of Arizona’s four sacks, including a safety last week against St. Louis, and the Cardinals had seven quarterback hits and two interceptions against the Rams. Karlos Dansby returned one 23 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is preparing to face Carson Palmer, a former teammate of his at Cincinnati during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

OLD FRIENDS: Fitzpatrick, the 250th overall pick in 2005, and Cardinals QB Carson Palmer, the top overall pick in 2003, have a friendship that dates to their time together in Cincinnati (2007-08 seasons).

“We had a couple of fun years, but I learned a lot about the way you need to present yourself, the way you need to attack a game plan, the kind of leadership aspects he brings,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s been that true, number one, everybody looks at you as a quarterback since he was probably a little kid. It’s been great to see the way he’s handled himself throughout his whole career and I’m happy for the success he’s had this year in Arizona.”

Palmer said he has a “ton of respect for” Fitzpatrick.

“He’s played in a number of different places, he has been in a lot of crazy situations, a lot of sticky situations,” Palmer said. “He’s the type of guy you want on your side. I loved playing with him, love watching him play. Hopefully I don’t have to watch him play too well this week because we need a big performance by our defense, and we need to play better than we did last week on offense.”

APOLOGY OFFERED: Bernard Pollard said that he was told officials made the wrong call when they flagged him for a personal foul on a shoulder-to-shoulder hit the safety delivered on Denver’s Eric Decker during the opening drive of the third quarter. The Broncos scored two plays later to take their first lead of the game at 27-21.

“They said the ref made a bad call. It doesn’t help us on Wednesday,” Pollard said. “During the game, the head of officiating stepped up and said that was a bad call, and then they came back and said the refs made a bad call. For us, if we make a bad decision during a competitive game when we don’t mean to but is off of a straight reaction, we’re fined … but refs are making bad calls and nothing is happening and those are coolers.

“It’s cooling the game down and kind of messing our groove up because we don’t know how to play now, as far as the way we touch the receivers when they’re releasing,” Pollard continued. “When they go up to get the ball, how do we hit them, how do we jam them, when do we jam them, but they can push off and you’re telling us we can’t do whatever, so it’s just tough as a defensive back.”

INJURY UPDATES: Delanie Walker practiced fully for the first time since suffering a concussion at Indianapolis Dec. 1. Brian Schwenke (ankle) and David Stewart (shoulder) also fully practiced.

Return specialist Leon Washington (ankle) was limited. Pollard (not injury related), Akeem Ayers (groin), Karl Klug (back), Andy Levitre (hip) and Alterraun Verner (groin) did not practice Wednesday.

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