The wrong team played “Titans football” today.
Jacksonville took the Titans out of its game with aggressive run defense and effective running by Maurice Jones-Drew.
By beating Tennessee with backup quarterback Quinn Gray and without defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, Jacksonville showed that it is the second-best team in the AFC South behind the Indianapolis Colts.
It’s almost unfair to point the finger at the defense as the primary reason Tennessee lost. Jacksonville simply outplayed Tennessee. Also, the Titans made tons of little mistakes (bad snaps, dropped passes, interceptions, penalties) which contributed to the loss.
Story of the Game: Titans can’t stop the run
Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee’s most valuable defensive player thus far, sat out today’s game with a hamstring injury. The Titans missed Haynesworth’s run stuffing and pass rush. Tennessee gave up three rushing touchdowns, allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 101 yards, and produced only one sack. The Titans defensive line committed a number of penalties trying to anticipate Quinn Gray’s snap count.
Jacksonville held the ball for over 34 minutes. While the Titans defense did a good job of containing quarterback Quinn Gray, overall it spent too much time on the field (over 34 minutes) and allowed Jacksonville’s offense to convert a number of key third down plays, including a scramble by Gray on 3rd and 12 with 4:57 left in the game. Fullback Greg Jones scored a three-yard touchdown on the next play to give the Jaguars a 28-13 lead.
The Other Story of the Game: Titans can’t run the football
Jacksonville made a commitment to shut down the Titans running attack after allowing Tennessee to run for 282 yards in game one. Before LenDale White left the game with a knee injury, he had run for only 12 yards on eight carries. Backup Chris Henry was held to minus-two yards on three carries. Vince Young led the team with 52 yards on eight carries.
VY had his highest passing yardage total as a Titan, completing 58.5 percent of his passes for 257 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
While I would like to take credit for offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s decision to run a hurry-up offense in the second half (see my previous blogs which discuss VY’s success in the hurry-up/two-minute offense), the Titans were forced to throw after being down 21-3 at halftime.
With White injured, backup running back Chris Brown recovering from injury and Chris Henry facing a possible suspension, Young may be forced to throw more over the next few weeks. This might help to accelerate his growth as a passer.
Next Week: The Merril Hoge Bowl
Tennessee travels to Denver to face the Broncos and quarterback Jay Cutler on Monday Night Football. Titans fans remember that, in 2006, ESPN commentator (and relentless Vince Young critic) Merril Hoge said if he were a general manager, he would draft Cutler in favor of Vince Young or Matt Leinart.
The Broncos do not have a great run defense, but Young may have to match Cutler throw for throw if LenDale White is out. Passing success will be tough since Denver has a great secondary with Champ Bailey and Dre Bly at cornerback.
The Titans are the better team than the Broncos on paper but Mile High Stadium is a tough place to play. Can Keith “Mr. Monday Night” Bulluck inspire his team to a tough road victory?
Watch video highlights of the Titans-Jaguars game by clicking here.