Big plays lead Broncos to win over Titans on Monday Night Football

The Titans made their second and final appearance of the 2007 season on Monday Night Football, and ended up on the wrong end of a 34-20 final tally. The Bronco attack was keyed by several big plays, as all four of their touchdowns were plays of over 40 yards. For more details, see my liveblog of the game.
The die was cast in part for the Titans about an hour before the game started, as the list of inactives was released. Chris Brown returned to the lineup, but Albert Haynesworth missed his second consecutive game. Additionally, Nick Harper and Benji Olson were out, forcing Reynaldo Hill and Eugene Amano into the starting lineup. Particularly with Haynesworth and Hill, these are losses that really hurt the Titans.
Offensively, Vince Young had what was probably his best overall game of the year, but his effort was ruined by a lack of help from his wide receivers and several poor throws. He finished 26 of 41 for 301 yards, a career high, one TD and two interceptions. Titan WRs had approximately five or six drops, including several key ones on third downs and on big plays. Additionally, one of the interceptions could have been prevented by more aggressive WR play. VY made several key mistakes, but he played well enough for the Titans to win the game with a good defensive effort and/or his supporting cast.
Of that supporting case, the rushing game mostly stunk. White finishes with 13 carries for 42 yards. That was 7 for 10 at the half, then a brief spate of productivity in the third quarter, before resuming non-entity status. It wouldn’t surprise me if Brown overall played almost or the same number of snaps. Brown only had 3 carries for 14 yards, but tied for second on the team in receptions, with 4, and second in receiving yards, with 61, behind only Justin Gage, who finished with 6 catches. VY was the Titans’ leading rusher, carrying 11 times for 74 yards. Most of these were genuine scrambles, though he did have a good carry for 19 yards on a read-option. Of the scrambles, several were very good, while about the same number were the same ineffective ones Titans fans have become familiar with of late. Oh, Chris Henry had 1 carry for 4 yards-not much of a presence from him at RB tonight. Scaife and Roydell tied Brown with 4 receptions each, with 49 and 47 yards, respectively. Brandon Jones had a 21 yard TD, and 2 more receptions for 4 more yards. Eric Moulds had 2 catches for 27. Drop, drop, drop, drop is part of the story for those 4, though. The Titans’ best pass-catcher was clearly Brown, who made good plays in space. White also had 2 catches for 22 yards, including a good move late to both pick up the first down and get out of bounds before the two-minute warning. Still, this game made it clear that the Titans are in need of an upgrade at WR-VY’s scrambles were often forced and the result of the Broncos’ ability to cover deny VY passing targets.
The Titans’ defensive performance looks pretty good, except for three plays. These are (i) a 48 yard TD pass to Stokley, (ii) a 41 yard TD pass to Marshall, and (iii) a 62 yard TD run by Hall. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? (Showing off my dorky side: Our American Cousin, starring Laura Keene.) The Titans played a lot of zone coverage to cover up for Hill’s deficiencies at CB, and got burned. The pass rush wasn’t able to get to Cutler, and when he did, he was able to scramble to buy time. Then, he found holes in the zone. He finished 16 of 21 for 200 yards and the 2 TDs. The pass to Stokley came on a scramble where Chris Hope was the deep zone coverage and got turned around. The second one was another play that featured movement, and a missed tackle by Calvin Lowry, playing for Chris Hope, shaken up earlier in the drive. The third TD came on a classic Bronco one-cut-and-go run, where I normally describe as a “cutback” on Upon Further Review. Reynaldo Hill missed a tackle, and Griffin didn’t take a very good angle, perhaps forgetting Hill was the player he was supporting. Aside from the TDs, though, the Broncos were only intermittently successful. But the big plays kept coming, and ultimately gave the Broncos enough to win.
You may have noticed the Broncos scored four TDs, and only three of them came against the defense. The fourth came in the first quarter, on the Broncos first punt return for a TD in about four years. Hentrich got off a good 51 yard punt, but PR Martinez was able to find a lane and outrun Vinny Fuller to the edge and raced down the sideline for the score. Aside from that, the kicks and punts were too bad. Martinez fumbled a punt in the third quarter that gave the Titans some additional life at a time when they really needed some. Only one of the kickoffs was returned, and that for only 26 yards. Hentrich average 43 yards a kick, though he finished with a poor net because of the PR TD and a touchback. Henry had 3 KOR, one of which was good and two mediocre. Troupe snagged one ball before it got to Henry and had a wonderful 9 yard return. Chris Davis had one punt return for 11, but fumbled (maybe), and quickly ended up back on the bench, replaced by Brandon Jones, who frankly isn’t a very good returner.
Thanks again to everybody who participated in the liveblog, particularly MVN Broncos writer Nick, who chimed in with comments from “the enemy.” The Titans’ record falls to 6-4, placing them a full game behind Jacksonville in the division and wild card race, and two games behind the Colts for the divisional lead. I’m not hugely surprised by the loss, but it’s a very disappointing one for the Titans. Hopefully, they’ll be able to rebound against the Bengals in Cincinnati next Sunday. While the Bengals don’t seem to be as much of a potential competitor for the wild card position as the Broncos, it’s still a conference game and therefore key for tiebreaking procedures, as well as the general importance of a win. I managed to watch most of the Bengals’ game this Sunday and should have a post up in a couple days looking at some things I saw from that game.

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