I am an optimist, but I’m also a realist. If the Chargers played the Titans ten times this season at home in a playoff game, I’d expect the Titans to lose seven out of ten.
That being said, the Titans had a chance to win today’s game and threw it away in the third quarter.
Story of the Game: Titans lose game in third quarter
The Titans entered the third quarter with a 6-0 lead and had eliminated LaDainian Tomlinson as a threat. The Titans defense allowed the Chargers to drive 86 yards to open the third quarter, including a 34-yard pass to Vincent Jackson on third down. Amazingly, Tennessee held the Chargers to a field goal. 6-3, Titans.
Tennessee came out throwing on the next drive. Vince Young completed two of three passes and helped the offense earn a first down.
Here’s where Tennessee handed the game to the Chargers.
First down: Titans run — LenDale White gains four yards.
Second down: Titans run again. Chris Henry gains nothing.
The Titans defense had just endured an 86-yard drive. It was no longer pressuring Philip Rivers. Defensive lineman get tired in the second half.
The Chargers have playmakers on offense. You’re not going to shut down a team full of playmakers for an entire game. It didn’t happen for the Titans in its week 14 matchup against the Titans and it was unrealistic to expect to shut down the entire Chargers offense for four quarters.
Tennessee needed to score points to win this game. Lots of points.
But Tennessee was content to run the ball twice in a row after a long Chargers scoring drive. Tennessee expected that it would play the exact same game it played in the first half and win 12-0. Therefore, it gave the ball to Chris Henry on a second and six play and he gained nothing.
Vince Young critics will point to the third down pass he didn’t convert after Chris Henry’s run.
I point to the decision to not throw the ball more, put pressure on the Chargers and put points on the board. Points are produced in the passing game, remember? At that point in the game, Tennessee’s offensive line was managing San Diego’s pass rush. It wasn’t teeing off on Vince Young. That would happen in the fourth quarter, when the Titans were forced to throw after giving up seventeen straight points.
The Titans punted on fourth down.
On the next drive, Tennessee shut down LT, but Albert Haynesworth helped the Chargers with 15 penalty yards after a personal foul. Two plays later, Philip Rivers hit Vincent Jackson for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Chargers lead 10-6.
I thought the Chargers score might be the best thing to happen for the Titans offense, since they could no longer be content to call running plays up the middle. Tennessee’s first offensive play saw Vince Young throw a nice pass to tight end Ben Troupe. Fullback Ahmard Hall had a nice 11-yard run for a first down to end the third quarter.
Too little, too late. Why?
The Chargers began teeing off on Vince Young. And Rob Bironas missed a 38-yard field goal which could have cut the Chargers lead to one point.
Second down. Titans run again. Chris Henry gains nothing.
The Other Story of the Game: Chris Brown fumbles in red zone — again
Last week versus the Colts, Chris Brown fumbled at the Indianapolis 6-yard line. Luckily, Tennessee won the game, in part to an assist by Colts coach Tony Dungy. No harm, no foul.
Not today, though. It’s the playoffs. You’re on the road. Your team is on the Chargers’ 12-yard line. You score a touchdown and you’re up 10-0.
But this was not to be. On what might be Chris Brown’s last carry as a Titan, he gained a yard, went airborne and was hit by linebacker Shawne Merriman.
Fumble. Chargers ball. Opportunity lost.
Playmakers 17, Tennessee 6
San Diego had two receivers gain over 100 yards receiving: Vincent “Not Bo” Jackson and Chris Chambers. LaDainian Tomlinson was held to 42 yards on 21 carries but had some big runs in the fourth quarter and scored the game’s final touchdown. Ultimately, Jackson, Chambers and Tomlinson proved to be the difference today. Tight end Antonio Gates was hurt in the first half. Had he remained healthy, the Chargers could have scored more points.
Titans Priority Number One: Get Offensive Playmakers
The Titans must make it a priority to get more playmakers on offense. I’ll have a lot to say about this over the next seven months, but I’ll start with this statement.
Rookie wide receivers don’t count for much, and I hope the Titans don’t draft one in the first round. Why?
1. The only offensive position in which you can count on a rookie to make an immediate impact is running back. The Titans don’t need a first round running back. However, the offense does need a change-of-pace back — a Maurice Jones-Drew type — but a reasonable team wouldn’t draft a speedy third-down back in the first round of the draft.
2. The Titans already have a bunch of young, inexperienced wide receivers (Roydell Williams, Brandon Jones, Chris Davis, Biren Ealy and Paul Williams). Drafting one or more receivers in the 2008 draft will only add to that number. Also, Tennessee has a few older ones who aren’t explosive (Eric Moulds, Justin Gage, Mike Williams and David Givens).
I predict two of the young receivers and two of the old receivers will not be on Tennessee’s game one roster in September.
Tennessee needs an explosive, veteran free agent receiver. Randy Moss is a remote possibility, but Bernard Berrian, Andre Davis, Bryant Johnson and Donte Stallworth are more realistic options. The Titans might have to consider trading for a player like Javon Walker, who is supposedly unhappy in Denver.
Next Week: Gone Fishin’
The Titans are done. I’ll be watching my second favorite team (until the 2008 season starts), the Jacksonville Jaguars, as they try and beat my least favorite team, the New England Patriots.
Maybe it’s a good thing Tennessee lost today. New England might have scored 70 points against them on Saturday.
The Titans should be proud. They are a year ahead in their rebuilding schedule thanks to Vince Young’s inspiring 2006 season and the Titans superb defensive performance in 2007. Once they sign some playmakers on offense and get Pacman Jones back on defense (I’ve said all along he’ll be back with Tennessee in 2008), the Titans will win 11 regular season games help VY get his first playoff victory.
Watch video highlights of the Titans-Chargers game by clicking here.