What an ugly game.
Tennessee did not deserve to win today against Atlanta, but saying this discredits the effort by the Titans defense to shut down the Falcons offense and to help the team overcome its coaching, offensive and special teams mistakes.
Fans who did not watch the game might look at the stat sheet and see Vince Young’s three interceptions and the Titans five turnovers and think those were the major factors in the game. Not today.
Story of the Game: Questionable Coaching Decisions
The Titans coaches made error after error in this game. Jeff Fisher had a 6-6 record after bye-weeks and he and his coordinators almost lost this game today his mediocre record showed today. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s play calling was too conservative in the first half and too aggressive in the fourth quarter. During the first half, Tennessee seemed content to run repeatedly on the Falcons statistically-weak rushing defense. Although Chris Brown scored a touchdown in the first half, LenDale White fumbled and DeAngelo Hall recovered it and scored for Atlanta. Overall, the Titans ran for only 92 yards.
Vince Young looked at his best during the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. Even so, Norm Chow did not call enough plays during the drill with receivers running into the end zone. Tennessee settled for a field goal to tie the game 10-10.
In the second half, it was clear the Falcons offense would not have any success against the Titans defense. After the Titans took a 20-13 lead, Norm Chow started calling risky passing plays instead of trying to wear down the Falcons defense with the run. Vince Young made a poor decision on his third interception, but I question Chow’s play call. The defense was playing lights out. Why pass?
On special teams, the Titans gave up a 76-yard kickoff return to Jerious Norwood. So what did the Titans do on the next kickoff? Did they squib kick? No. They kicked off to Norwood who broke another long kickoff return.
The Titans coaching must have rubbed off on Atlanta late in the game. The Falcons substituted Byron Leftwich for Harrington late in the fourth quarter. Joey Harrington had been visibly shaken by the Titans defense and was having no significant success, but how do you bring in a guy who has virtually no chemistry with the Falcons receivers in a critical situation?
Leftwich completed two-of-eight passes for 28 yards. Most of his passes sailed over the heads of his receivers.
The Other Story of the Game: Titans Special Teams
Other than Rob Bironas, the Titans special teams play was atrocious. Two long kickoff returns by Norwood and a complete breakdown on punt protection late in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a chance to tie the football game with field position 19 yards away from the end zone.
Titans fans should be thankful the defense brought it’s “A” game today, because the offense earned a C-minus at best and the special teams earned an F. Atlanta managed to earn 99 yards rushing and 99 yards passing and did not score an offensive touchdown. Albert Haynesworth was disruptive. David Thornton made a key interception and missed another pass that Joey Harrington threw to him. Cortland Finnegan played inspired football against Roddy White.
VY threw three interceptions. After the first one, a deep pass on which Bo Scaife couldn’t outjump Falcons linebacker Michael Boley on the sideline, you assumed VY had thrown his obligatory first half interception and would regroup for the rest of the game. Not today. The second pick was during a play in which he was being sacked and he lobbed it up for grabs. Unfortunately, Falcons defensive tackle Trey Lewis caught the lob. As I said earlier, the third interception was a poor decision but I place the responsibility on Norm Chow for making a questionable play call.
Other than the interceptions, VY completed 60.6 percent of his passes and made some good throws. Hopefully he’ll learn to take the sack instead of throwing up lobs when he has no other options.
The Titans face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. Tennessee may welcome the chance to get away from home after today’s shaky home performance. The Bucs are hurting after the loss of Cadillac Williams but are playing good defense. Jeff Fisher, Norm Chow and Vince Young have to regroup and help the Titans outstanding defense.
3-1 after an ugly win? I’ll take it. Go Titans!