Titans return to winning ways with victory over Texans

In Nashville today, the Titans used the return of Albert Haynesworth and a strong second half to return to their winning ways with a 28-20 victory.
The game started out with each team taking their opening possession into the end zone for a touchdown. The return of Haynesworth didn’t appear to show much in the way of immediate dividends, as Dayne had 5 carries for 40 yards, all of them successful, including the drive-capping 1 yard TD plunge on a play Fisher challenged. The Titans were able to return the favor on a drive that featured both good runs and passes, and two Eugene Amano penalties. The game bogged down thereafter. Matt Schaub was injured shortly thereafter and the Texans offense didn’t immediately respond positively to Sage Rosenfels’ presence. The Texans finally did get back on the board on their last drive of the first half, on a drive that featured 4 of Andre Johnson’s 9 catches for the game. The Titans moved into the edge of FG range despite starting with the post-game press conference, he had a dislocated finger and could have returned, but Chris Brown is better. OK, that’s not exactly what Fisher said. He had his customary 1-3 plays where he looks good and looked meh the rest of the time. Brown looked great on his 22 yard run and good on his 7 yard TD run, but seemed to get run into the line a lot. VY’s actual run was an Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw on a play where that was the right call to run clock before a punt. Oh, and Chris Barclay had 1 carry for 3 yards. Whoopee.
VY: 21 of 31 for 248, 2 TDs and 1 INT. And he was plagued by drops again-I counted at least 5 passes that should have been caught and weren’t. Roydell had 5 catches for 74 to lead the team, and I don’t remember any drops from him. Gage had 5 for 64, and a couple drops. Scaife had 4 for 57 and a drop or two. Moulds had 3 for 29 and a drop. From somebody who was at the game, Gage was consistently open and nobody else was. From what I saw last week, the latter sounds really accurate. I haven’t watched the TV of the Bengals’ game yet, but this is about three and a half games where VY has really played pretty well. It’s premature to declare that he suddenly “gets it,” but I’m not nearly as concerned about him as I was two months ago. Naturally, however, he did have one colossally stupid play, where he dropped a snap, recovered it, but lost track of what was going on everywhere and chucked it deep, resulting in a brain-dead interception. You just can’t give up the ball stupidly like that. Still, he played well enough for the Titans to win, and they did.
The run D, as noted above, wasn’t always good. Dayne ended up with 18 carries for 86 yards. Intermittent success, but that’s a lot more than the almost none that I remember from the first game against the Texans. Adimchinobe Echemandu was really bad, despite his very cool name. On the pass D, Nick Harper can’t play man, especially against Andre Johnson. Harper was also shaken up for a play, and Reynaldo Hill was immediately beaten for a first down by Davis, though not the TD to Johnson that I expected. Also, Calvin Lowry isn’t nearly as good as Chris Hope. One thing I didn’t mention in my write-up of the Bengals game was Hope’s absence and its effect on what coverages the Titans could run successfully. When you have somebody like Lowry out there, it limits what you can do schematically. One thing the Titans did do was run some 5-DL sets. Mildly gimmicky, it seems to me, but is another way to torment bad offensive lines like the Texans’. Aside from the Schaub injury, the Texans also lost their top two RGs today, Fred Weary and Chris White, to apparently season-ending injuries.
Special teams? Chris Barclay looked like Just A Guy running back kickoffs. He fumbled a punt, though, giving the Texans good field position. He’ll probably stick around until Henry’s suspension is over, but that’s it. Finnegan returned punts after that, and didn’t do anything. Griffin also had a KOR, and wasn’t any better than Barclay. Thankfully, the kickoff return coverage was pretty decent, and punt coverage was as well. The backup OLB penalty was even eliminated, though Ahmard Hall in his return made up for it with a personal foul face mask after the Titans string out a punt return for a loss of 3. Bironas missed the FG, but was otherwise pretty good on kickoffs. As noted here, he’s “clearly the best all-around kicker in the league this season.”
Other storylines? Mike Williams was active, lined up solely as a WR, didn’t have a catch, and dropped a pass. Per Fisher, Brandon Jones had a groin strain. I didn’t notice him on the field at all, though I’m sure he was. Moulds also didn’t seem to play much. Mario Williams had 2.5 sacks of VY, one of which came late after he stayed home on a bootleg and VY turtled to run clock and avoid doing something stupid and the other of which was when he chased down VY from behind (Stewart didn’t seem to try very hard to block his outside rush on this play). Ahmard Hall was back from injury. I’d have to go through and count how much he was in the game, but I’m sure you’ll see stories people the improved run game to him rather than “playing the Texans.” Yes, I’m bitter because I wanted the Titans to draft Lawrence Vickers, who was destroying people with the Browns today, and they picked Jonathan Orr instead.
Hmm, that’s about all I have. The Titans get a chance to continue their winning ways next week at home against the Chargers, who beat the Chiefs, 24-10 today. The Titans’ last game against the Chargers was in Week 2 of last year and was a 40-7 loss in a game that really wasn’t that close. It’s most notable for being the game where VY had his first NFL TD pass, down 40-0, and the last Titans action I didn’t see, because DirecTV futzed out in the rain for 10 minutes. More on that if you stay tuned to Total Titans later this week, of course.

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