It is fitting that Tennessee would commit seven defensive penalties on a day when Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil gave the officials a one-fingered salute.
Cecil’s defense gave up 341 passing yards to Kyle Orton, the Broncos defense shut down Chris Johnson, and two young Titans receivers made critical mistakes in the fourth quarter.
Story of the Game: Orton finishes strong for Broncos
Here’s a little love for Kyle Orton, who is arguably the league’s most underappreciated quarterback.
Orton, in his sixth NFL season, is currently leading one of the NFL’s top passing offenses (of course, the Broncos can’t run the football, but that’s another story). He’s always appeared to be patient, steady, and poised. His accuracy and touchdown-to-interception ratio are much improved from his days as a Chicago Bear. If Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels goes all-in with Tim Tebow in 2011 or 2012, another NFL team will have the opportunity to sign Orton, a more-than-adequate quarterback.
Orton threw an interception to Michael Griffin in the fourth quarter, but he bounced back after the Titans’ conservative offensive strategy failed to generate yards and points. Orton threw a touchdown pass to Correll Buckhalter with 1:38 remaining in the game to give the Broncos a 26-20 lead.
The Other Story of the Game: Chris Johnson ineffective
Chris Johnson had his least productive game this season, rushing for only 53 yards on 19 carries. His first-quarter fumble ended a good drive when the Titans were in position to score the game’s first points.
Give credit to the Broncos defense for not allowing Johnson to get to its second level and break a long run. CJ’s longest run of the day was for 8 yards.
It’s time to put the 2,500 yard season discussion to bed. It may be time to begin a discussion on whether Javon Ringer’s success (with limited carries) is an accident, or whether Ringer’s presence in the Titans’ offseason program – and Johnson’s absence – makes a difference.
A Tale of Two Receivers
Marc Mariani went from hero to goat on two kickoff returns. The surprising rookie receiver from Montana took a kickoff return to the house in the 3rd quarter to give the Titans a 17-13 lead.
Following Orton’s 4th quarter touchdown pass to Buckhalter, Mariani and the kickoff teams unit made a critical mistake. Whether by design or not, the Broncos’ kickoff was high and short. The ball bounced in front of Mariani. The rookie leaped in the air to retrieve it. He didn’t make the catch.
With 28 seconds left in the game, Vince Young was asked to conjure a miracle. VY threw two catchable balls to receiver Kenny Britt. Both passes slipped through Britt’s hands.
It is a sports cliché to say that teams adopt the personality of its coach. If the Titans defense is imitating Chuck Cecil, it is aggressive, physical, and undisciplined. Nevertheless, give the defense credit for sacking Orton 6 times.
When cornerback Jason McCourty returns to the lineup after his broken forearm heals, he might have a tough time keeping rookie Alterraun Verner (aka Always-Around-The-Ball Verner) out of the lineup. Verner had 11 solo tackles against the Broncos — 8 in the first half.
There was a Jared Cook sighting! The much-hyped tight end caught 1 pass for 17 yards.
It would be great if Vince Young improved his ability to throw touch passes. VY missed Cook on a 3rd down pass in the fourth quarter which could have kept the offense in position to get a much-needed score in a close game.
Next Week: Dallas Cowboys
The Titans blew a chance to beat a flawed team in the Denver Broncos. Dallas will present a much tougher challenge as they seek their second victory of the season.
By game day, The Cowboys will have prepared two weeks to shut down CJ, frustrate VY, and exploit the Titans’ pass defense. This one could be ugly – or perhaps the Titans will find a way to pull an upset in Big D.