NCAA

Porous Titans' 'D' now one of stingiest in the NFL

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Porous Titans' 'D' now one of stingiest in the NFL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee defense was giving up more points than anyone else in the NFL earlier this season. The Titans were so bad they had nowhere to go but up.

Over the past six weeks they've gotten better.

Much better.

The Titans head to Green Bay on Sunday ranked in the top five in six different categories, including fourth in scoring defense holding opponents to 17.6 points per game since Nov. 11. That may not seem like much, but Tennessee gave up an NFL-worst 181 points through the first five games and still rank 30th in that category for the season.

Coach Mike Munchak says defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has to be happy with how the Titans have weathered the early storm.

``We knew it wasn't all the defense,'' Munchak said. ``It was turnovers, it was the offense. It was a lot of things that were leading to statistically things looking worse than they were. We obviously weren't playing as well as we needed to play on either side of the ball.''

Starting with a 37-3 win at Miami on Nov. 11, the Titans rank third in total defense holding opponents to 286 yards per game, first averaging 3.4 sacks per game, second in interceptions (10), sixth in third-down percentage (32.4 percent), eighth against the run (104.6 yards per game) and second in opponent's passer rating (60.7).

That's despite not having defensive captain Colin McCarthy at middle linebacker the past three games as he recovers from concussion symptoms.

``There are a lot of good things developing here as we finish up,'' Munchak said.

Defensive end Derrick Morgan, the first-round draft pick in 2010, had been perceived as a bust tearing an ACL in his first month as a rookie. But Morgan leads the Titans with 16 quarterback pressures, and he's tied for second with 4 1/2 sacks, including one in the win against the Jets.

Second-year linebacker Akeem Ayers is tied with end Kamerion Wimbley for the team lead with five sacks, and Ayers is second with 96 tackles. Rookie linebacker Zach Brown, who has started 11 games this season, was marked down by some in the draft for not being physical. The second-round pick out of North Carolina has 4 1/2 sacks, 79 tackles and is fourth in tackles.

Munchak said the young linebackers are starting to show the type of plays they can make with their size and strength.

``They have a lot of growing left. These guys are going to be a lot better than they are now,'' Munchak said.

The Titans were at their best this season against the Jets forcing a season-high five turnovers and also had four sacks for a second straight game. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the Titans played really good Monday night.

``I like to judge a team by kind of how they're playing lately, and I think they're playing really well,'' Rodgers said. ``They're an opportunistic defense. They have some guys with some ball skills in the secondary, they've got some athletic players. They're very young overall. I think it's a team that has a bright future.''

This streak started Nov. 11 when the Titans beat Miami 37-3 on the road. They also have played tough offenses in Houston and Indianapolis along with the struggling Jaguars and Jets.

The Packers (10-4) offer a stiffer challenge. Rodgers has been sacked 45 times this season, but he has a 104.7 passer rating throwing for 32 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. Only New England has had fewer passes intercepted this season.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said they are spending extra time studying film of the Titans (5-9) since these teams haven't played since 2008.

``They fly around, they have excellent length. Their secondary, also, is making plays,'' McCarthy said.

Cornerback Jason McCourty said the biggest key is the Titans are just playing better even though wins haven't resulted. Now they want to create more stops, turnovers and sacks to help the offense score more points and get more wins.

``Even though we're playing better, we want to get wins,'' McCourty said.

Notes: The Titans went through a light 45-minute session Wednesday. Munchak said receiver Kendall Wright is very sore after hurting his ribs against the Jets and will have to improve a lot to play in Green Bay. McCarthy will practice Thursday with no restrictions to test the linebacker. WRs Kenny Britt (knee) and Damian Williams (hamstring) were limited, while C Kevin Matthews (right ankle), CB Ryan Mouton (hamstring) and DE Scott Solomon (knee) also did not practice.

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Old Dominion at Syracuse Basketball: Date, Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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USA Today Sports

Old Dominion at Syracuse Basketball: Date, Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Following a thrilling 72-71 win over rival Georgetown, Syracuse (7-2) returns to the floor on Dec. 15 and welcomes Old Dominion (7-3) to town. The Orange will play four more non-conference games before starting ACC play on Jan. 5 at Notre Dame.

Old Dominion has won five-straight games entering their game against Syracuse. In the Monarchs' last game, B.J. Stith led the way with 28 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. 

Tip-off is scheduled for noon ET and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Old Dominion at Syracuse How to Watch

What: Old Dominion Monarchs at Syracuse Orange
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
When: Noon ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Old Dominion at Syracuse Preview

Conference: ACC (Syracuse), C-USA (Old Dominion)
Record: 7-2 (Syracuse), 7-3 (Old Dominion)
Last Game: 72-71 win vs. Georgetown, 12/8 (Syracuse), 79-69 win vs. Fairfield, 12/9 (Old Dominion)
Leading Scorers: Tyus Battle, 18.0 ppg (Syracuse), Ahmad Caver, 18.5 ppg (Old Dominion)
 

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Drew Gooden describes playing with LeBron James: It was 'like a traveling rock band'

Drew Gooden describes playing with LeBron James: It was 'like a traveling rock band'

LeBron James and the media circus that comes along with him is coming to Washington, D.C., as the Lakers will face off with the Wizards at Capital One Arena.

Drew Gooden played with James for the better part of four seasons in Cleveland from 2004-08, and so he knows exactly what it's like when one of the NBA's greatest players comes to town. 

"It's only real until you actually see it," Gooden said during Thursday's edition of the Wizards Talk podcast. "We used to joke and call ourselves not the Beatles, but the 'Cleatles,' because it was almost like a traveling rock band. And everybody played their part."

Gooden recounted one particular incident during a day off in Detroit in 2006, when he, James and a couple of their teammates went to a shopping mall to buy some watches.

"When we walked into the shopping mall in Detroit, it was like Michael Jackson had entered the shopping mall," Gooden explained. "Kids were running up, grownups were running up, everybody ran into the store we were in. They had to shut it down with mall security, and wouldn't let anybody in."

"The only thing I was thinking of is like, 'How are we gonna get out of here?' Because we came on our own with no security, so we were just thinking of how we were gonna get out of the mall now. And when I saw that star power of LeBron James back in 2006, this was before he won a championship, I couldn't imagine how it is now, and what he's become in today's game."

James' star power has only grown since then, and many have already declared him the greatest basketball player of all-time.

This label in reference to James is nothing new to Drew Gooden: he heard it when they were both teenagers playing AAU baskeball. 

"Calvin Andrews, who was a sports agent of Carmelo Anthony, Calvin Andrews told me when LeBron was 15 years of age, he said, 'You see that guy right there?'" Gooden recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, what about him?'"

"'He's gonna be the best basketball player ever.'"

"So it's no surprise to me, and this is not new to me, it's just I'm more amazed that it actually happened," Gooden concluded. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, he's gonna be the best ever or he has an opportunity of being the best ever.' But I literally heard a man tell me that in Calvin Andrews, and that guy actually becoming one of the best ever, or the best ever." 

For more on LeBron James and the Lakers' upcoming visit to D.C. to take on the Wizards, listen to the full Wizards Talk podcast below.

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