Titans 31, Steelers 14

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I’m speechless, but being without words doesn’t help if you publish a blog, so I will write.

Tennessee played its best game of the season after playing its worst game last Sunday, and I’m pleasantly surprised.

I gave the Titans no chance of winning today’s game. I thought the team I watched last Sunday against the Houston Texans had no chance against the tough Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Titans played like the team who dominated opponents on the way to 12 wins. With its 13th win, Tennessee has clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Titans offense rediscovered its balance, and the defense performed well without two of its best defensive players. One of the defensive replacements had the game of his young life.

Story of the Game: Jason Jones shuts down Big Ben

Jason Jones, the Titans rookie defensive tackle, was key as the Titans contained the Steelers offense during the second half. Substituting for injured Pro Bowler Albert Haynesworth, Jones had four tackles, three forced fumbles, and 3 1/2 sacks.

As Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch watched from the sidelines, the patchwork defensive line helped to limit Pittsburgh to 72 yards rushing.

Roethlisberger made big passing plays all day, but in the second half, Jones took advantage of Big Ben’s tendency to hold the football too long, and too carelessly.

I wonder if Jones’ performance makes it more or less likely the Titans resign Albert Haynesworth. Jones is undersized as a 275-pound defensive tackle, but his lack of girth didn’t hurt him today.

The Other Story of the Game: Perfectly Balanced Attack

Kerry Collins missed a handful of throws early, but it didn’t take long for him to find arhythm. Collins completed 20 of 29 passes for 216 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

The touchdown pass came on a nicely-thrown deep ball to Justin Gage. Gage caught five passes for 104 yards.

The much-maligned Justin McCareins contributed six grabs for 55 yards. Tight ends Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife caught three and four passes, respectively.

Chris Johnson had 16 carries for 69 yards. His biggest play was a 21-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one. Johnson was eager to celebrate his touchdown and was lucky that hustling safety Troy Polamalu didn’t swat the ball out of his hands.

LenDale White scored his 15th rushing touchdown of the season. After the score, he handed the football to good friend Snoop Dogg. White carried the ball 15 times for 48 yards.

“Field Goal Fisher” no more?

For the second week in a row, coach Jeff Fisher has surprised me with his fourth down calls.

In the third quarter, with the score 17-14, the Titans started a drive on the Steelers 37-yard line. LenDale White ran for 7 yards on first down. Second and third down netted zero yards.

Fisher elected to go for it on fourth down instead of having Rob Bironas kick into a strong wind. Thankfully, Collins was on target and completed a 17-yard pass to Justin Gage.

Later in the drive, the Titans faced a fourth-and-one on the Steelers 4. Fisher elected to go for it again. Steeler linebacker James Harrison committed a personal on the play and gave Tennessee a first down on the two-yard line. White finished the drive with a touchdown run.

It’s a good thing I can no longer predict what Fisher will choose to do on fourth down.

Next Week: Indianapolis Colts

The sole plot of the Titans-Colts contest is which team will rest its key players during the game.

The surging Colts have earned an AFC wild card berth. The Titans have earned the AFC South division title and home field advantage. Neither team has anything at stake.

Traditionally, Indianapolis rests its key starters during the last regular season game. Fisher has said he intends to play his starters against the Colts.

I’m expecting a Vince Young sighting during the second half of the game.

Titans Tracker was off track

“Traditional” journalists are loathe to admit they were wrong about anything.

I was tempted to jump off the 2008 Titans bandwagon after the Texans loss. Tennessee impressed me today, and I’m fully confident they are capable of making it to Tampa for Super Bowl 43.

I’m giving the Titans a double cheer for their great victory against the Steelers.

Go Titans! Go Titans!

Watch highlights of the Titans-Steelers at NFL.com.

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