Collins led Tennessee's 21-14 road victory Sunday with his best passing performance in four seasons. In the process, Collins showed the undefeated Titans (9-0) can keep rolling, even when their vaunted rushing game is stymied.
"Good teams, when they can't do one thing, need to do the other," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "Kerry did a great job."
So did Tennessee's smothering defense, allowing only 168 yards after the Bears scored on the opening series. The Titans' special teams also kept Chicago (5-4) pinned deep in its own territory for much of the game. But such efforts would have been squandered if Collins hadn't come through.
Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger told his unit last Wednesday that Tennessee would need success in the air because of Chicago's stingy rush defense. His words were proven true, as Chris Johnson and LenDale White combined for just 22 yards on 24 carries.
With outstanding protection from an offensive line that allowed only one sack, Collins helped the Titans compensate by completing 30 of 41 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Collins' first-down passing—he was 11-for-15 for 105 yards—kept Chicago off-balance. He also converted five times on third-down situations of five yards or longer, including a 10-yard completion to tight end Bo Scaife that allowed Tennessee to run out the fourth-quarter clock.
"We're going to have to throw a little more because teams are putting nine, 10 guys in the box against us," said Scaife, who also had a 10-yard touchdown catch among his 10 receptions. "People are going to have to step up and make plays."
There were serious doubts about whether Collins could do that, especially with a lackluster wide-receiver corps and a conservative offensive philosophy. In the previous eight games he has started since replacing Vince Young, Collins hadn't thrown for more than 200 yards or one touchdown in any of them.
Collins has made some clutch throws but was never asked to carry the load like Sunday.
"People say Kerry manages the game," Heimerdinger said. "But when you go back and watch, I don't think he's getting credit. There may not be gaudy statistics because that's not the way we do it. But he is winning games."
That wasn't always the case. Before this season, Collins was 7-25 as a starter, dating to the 2004 campaign in the first of two disastrous years with Oakland. Collins admits his time with the Raiders left him "a little beat-up mentally" when he signed with the Titans.
Collins, 35, seemed resigned to end his NFL career as a backup until Young's early-season knee injury and subsequent emotional meltdown led to another starting opportunity.
"For whatever reason, (the Raiders) weren't a very good team," Collins said Friday during an interview at Titans headquarters. "I take my fair share of that. It can be tough week in and week out to know that you're not winning. Mentally, it challenges you a little bit."
Now, it's Collins who is raising the play of those around him.
"Kerry is a consistent present in the huddle for us," Scaife said. "He's confident. All you have to do is get to the right spot and Kerry will put the ball there for you."
The only negative to Collins' weekend was a gash on the bridge of his nose he suffered when the muzzleloader used to shoot the deer "kicked back and popped me."
"I was pretty happy even though I was bleeding profusely," a laughing Collins said. "I've had to explain that (cut) 122 times in the past two days."
The Titans have spent an entire season trying to explain that Collins isn't just a "game-manager" type of quarterback. With his play Sunday, Collins proved he can be more.
"I don't even know what a game manager is," Scaife said. "Kerry is just a winner."
This article originally published on FOXSports.com.
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