Titans still alive in playoff hunt after comeback win over Chiefs

In Kansas City Sunday, the Tennessee Titans used Vince Young’s second TD pass to Roydell Williams and two Rob Bironas field goals to surmount a second half deficit and top the Chiefs, 26-17.
The Titans started out hot, going 8 plays in 60 yards after receiving the opening kickoff, a drive that culminated in a 16 yard TD pass from VY to Roydell. The Chiefs then went 3&out, and the Titans’ second drive started with two White rushes for 11 yards. And the next time the Titans looked decent offensively for more than 2 plays was, uh, about 45 minutes later. After a couple exchanges of punts, the Chiefs tied the game. This scoring drive featured some good runs from Kolby Smith, a couple decent Croyle throws, and some terrible tackling that enabled Samie Parker to get into the end zone from 10 yards out. Kansas City was kind enough to fumble a punt that set the Titans up at the 23, and the Bironas hit his first field goal of the game for a 10-7 lead. The Chiefs moved the ball down the field near the end of the first half, though, on a 14 play, 6:44 drive that ended with … a short pass on 3&G from out there where the Titans miss several tackles and let the receiver get into the end zone. This time, it was Kris Wilson, and Vinny Fuller was among those trying to make the tackle and was injured for his efforts.
The Titans managed to cut the 14-10 halftime deficit to 1 on Bironas’s second FG of the game. This drive basically consisted of one 35 yard pass to Roydell after a decent Chris Davis punt return. The Chiefs were able to restore the 4-point margin on their next possession, though, after another 14 play drive. The infraction of “offensive holding” was rediscovered on this drive, after having been lost for most of the NFL some weeks earlier, as the Chiefs were flagged thrice. No matter, though, as none of the 3 stopped the drive. The deficit didn’t last much longer, though, as the VY’s second TD pass to Roydell soon followed. The drive started auspiciously, as Barclay intentionally failed to field a kickoff near the sidelines, and it obliging rolled out at the 2, setting up the Titans at their own 40. A short Chris Brown run, then a pass to Gage is actually caught for 16 yards, and the eventual game-winning score. The Titans had several times thrown the quick hitch to the WR, but this time it was just a pump fake. It worked magnificently, though, as the Chiefs D was sucked in and Roydell was without a Chief near him. He caught the ball(!) and strolled into the end zone for a 20-17 lead. The Chiefs made the game look over soon, as Croyle was intercepted on the first play after the TD and VY found Scaife for a TD. Alas, the rediscovery of offensive holding extended to the Titans, too, and Roos was flagged for holding. Bironas did make it 23-17 at least. After another Bironas FG, the Chiefs started to drive again, but Croyle was intercepted again, this time by Thornton, and the Titans were able to run out the last 4:10 for the win.
So, how’d everybody do? White was 24 for 93. He seemed to have more like 8 than 2 “actual NFL RB runs,” but it didn’t help his overall stats that much. Brown had 5 for 23, 12 of that on a single carry. VY officially 7 rushes for 32 yards, long of 14. That was a designed run, some option. At the end of the run, he pitched it to White, laterally, but was flagged for an illegal forward pass instead. Instead of 1&G at the 6, the Titans had 2&1 at the 19, and that drive ended with the Bironas FG that made it 23-17. On scrambles, he was mostly as hesitant as he has been most of the year. I know, shocking.
The pass game? VY was 16 of 26 for 191 and the 2 TDs. No INTs, and I’m not remembering any particularly bad passes. Titan WRs, as they do every week, had something like 5 drops. Roydell lead the team with 4 grabs for 94 yards and the 2 TDs. Moulds also had 4 catches, but for only 37 yards. Gage had 3 catches for 45 yards. Brown and Hall 2 catches each, and White 1. No catches for TEs, which isn’t something the Titans have done lately. In fact, only 3 passes were intended for TEs, 2 for Scaife, including the TD called back for holding, and 1 to Hartsock. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the overall efficiency, but the pass offense did produce the thing I whine about the most when I do UFR, viz. big plays down the field, so I guess I can’t really complain.
Oh, Kevin Mawae was injured early in the game. Amano played the rest of the way at C and wasn’t too terrible. The OLine took another hit later on, as Benji Olson went down with an apparent leg injury. Loper finished the game for him at RG. I didn’t notice him much, which at least meant he wasn’t a total turnstile.
The defense was perhaps even more of a MASH unit than the offense. Ryan Fowler went out late in the first half. As noted above, Fuller was injured and missed time. Fisher noted in the post-game press conference that they didn’t even get the 15 plays out of Haynesworth they were hoping for. Vickerson left with an injury, though I believe he returned. Harper missed a couple plays with an injury, though somehow Hill wasn’t burned when he was in there. KVB left the game for a play or two with an injury. Bulluck missed a play after being shaken up.
The guys who were on the field, well, the Chiefs are terrible. Really, really bad. Kolby Smith managed 18 carries for 82 yards, and was intermittently productive. I thought Brodie Croyle made a couple of boneheaded plays, but had intermittent success. In fact, the Chiefs converted 11 of 17 3rd downs, a couple on Croyle scrambles. The Titans weren’t able to generate that much pressure, and didn’t force Croyle to involuntarily eat turf while trying to pass a single time. Part of that was the Chiefs gameplan, but plenty of it was the Titans’ own play. Croyle also showed good poise, standing in and making throws even when there were rushers in the area.
Special teams? Chris Davis had a decent punt return, but also muffed one, which he thankfully did manage to recover. Hentrich had a decent enough day punting, and the coverage team bothered to show up for a change. Ditto on the kickoffs, except for one 39 yard return by Drummond. Barclay was lousy returning kickoffs, further cementing his “so cut when Henry’s suspension is over” status.
Other issues? Fisher didn’t challenge the VY pitch to White because they didn’t have footage in the box-grr. I didn’t think it was worth a challenge, but it’s the principle of the thing. I was disappointed in the Titans’ lack of pressure against a Chiefs o-line that had been shaky. Analyst Solomon Wilcots referred to Chris Brown as “deceptively fast” and Chiefs DE Tamba Hali as “high motor,” both appellations typically reserved for white players. Odom had another offside penalty today. I haven’t made a full count, but I feel like that’s about his 8th this year. The Titan backup LBs managed to avoid committing a penalty on a special teams play today, somehow. Chris Davis was active, while Mike Williams was inactive. Brandon Jones was placed on IR before the game. Biren Ealy was the intended recipient of a 3rd down pass, and had it go off his hands-tough catch, but one he needs to make if he wants to play. The Titan D again let an opponent get off its own goalline in the 2-minute drill. The frequently stout run D continued to be poor in Power situations.
Still, a win is a win, and I’ll take it, though it may seem hypocritical given the attitude of impending doom I’d felt toward this game all week. Next up, the New York Jets, in the Meadowlands. The Jets are terrible, but did hold the Pats without an offensive TD today and covered the ridiculous spread. Plus, since VY joined the Titans, they don’t have a regular season win against a team that runs the 3-4, which the Jets do. Now would be a good time to remedy that, as it’s the only way to keep the Titans’ slim playoff hopes alive.

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