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Hard-hitting defense leading way for 2-1 Titans

Titans safety Michael Griffin left New York with the cleats of former teammate Keith Bulluck; Tennessee left with something much more important — a win.

Griffin added Bulluck's cleats to his personal collection, but after a disappointing home loss to Pittsburgh, Tennessee needed to rebound and the Titans did with a 29-10 win over the Giants on Sunday.

That coupled with the Texans' first loss has the Titans (2-1) in a tie atop the AFC South with Houston and Indianapolis.

So far, the defense has led the way for Tennessee.

The unit among the NFL's worst in 2009 has allowed just 42 points. Only four teams have allowed fewer points through three games. The Titans also were tied for third with 10 sacks.

The Giants racked up 471 total yards, most allowed by the Titans this season. But the Giants couldn't translate the offense into points. Tennessee forced three turnovers — two inside the Giants 20, and an interception of Eli Manning by defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks on the game's first series gave the Titans a short field and a 3-0 lead.

"Clearly, we have to play better," coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. "But we made plays when we needed to make plays and made different types of plays."

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan broke up a pass intended for Hakeem Nicks on the first possession. The ball popped in the air straight to Marks as he hustled back downfield toward the play. Marks credited defensive line coach Jim Washburn for teaching his linemen to turn and run to the ball once it leaves the quarterback's hand.

"Sen'Derrick made a great catch," Griffin said. "(Linebacker) Stephen Tulloch makes a great play to get him on the ground. We want to know what Sen'Derrick's return game would have been."

The Giants drove 81 yards on their next possession to a third-and-goal at the Titans 2. Linebacker Will Witherspoon blitzed and pressured Manning, who tried to throw with his left hand while being tackled. Cornerback Jason McCourty intercepted in the end zone for the touchback.

Griffin downed a Brett Kern punt at the Giants 1 after the Titans' first possession of the third quarter had stalled. Griffin isn't normally on the coverage team but asked to replace usual gunner Alterraun Verner who was playing cornerback once McCourty who hurt his right forearm.

"I've been covering punts ever since I was a freshman in college," Griffin said. "The wind the ball was wobbling in the air. I was just trying to keep the ball from going in the end zone and give the defense a long field to work with. I managed to make a great catch and things got turned around from there."

Three plays later, the Giants were called for a personal foul in the end zone, resulting in a safety. The Titans led 12-10 and never trailed again.

Fisher said they will have to play better with Denver (1-2) visiting Sunday with what he called a more explosive offense than the Giants. Manning threw for 386 yards, and Denver quarterback Kyle Orton threw for a career-best 476 yards Sunday.

Griffin said keeping opponents out of the end zone is all that matters.

"That's how you win football games," Griffin said.

Notes: Fisher said Monday they still were performing tests on McCourty's right forearm, an injury that might need surgery. But the coach said he hasn't ruled McCourty out yet against Denver. If McCourty can't play, rookie Alterraun Verner likely would get the start. "He's a football player, he's instinctive and he understands," Fisher said. "He can play either side, left or right and he can play the nickel at this point. He's very intelligent, very competitive.