Liveblog: Titans@Chargers – AFC Wild Card Playoffs

It’s a beautiful day in my neck of the woods-a little cloudy, but not precipitating and it’s about 60 degrees out there. Not perfect, still humid, but a far cry from the sub-10 temperatures that greeted me on my way to work this week. So, why am I inside on this day? It’s a simple matter of priorities, and the Titans’ first playoff appearance since that cold, bitter loss in New England four years ago far outweighs some silly warm weather. Stay with me here for the next four or so hours for commentary on the triumphs and failures of the Titans against their Chargers. Note for the sensitive: there may also be some announcer-bashing involved.
The Bucs-Giants game is still winding down, but while we wait for 3:30, check out the official inactives list. Mawae’s condition apparently did not improve enough for him to play, so he’s inactive. With Olson’s injury as well, that means Eugene Amano will be starting at C and Dan Loper will be starting at RG. They’ll be facing a stiff challenge on the inside from San Diego’s nose tackle, Jamal Williams, who gave the Titans trouble in the previous meeting. Also among the inactives are WRs Paul Williams and Mike Williams. That’s a very disappointing use of personnel. Among the actives at WR are Chris Davis and Biren Ealy, and Mike Otto is presumably the primarily OT backup. Let’s hope for no OL injuries. Officially, Eric Moulds is starting at WR in place of Roydell. For San Diego, I don’t see any notable inactives. LB Marques Harris was questionable, and he’s inactive, but I don’t think that’s a huge loss. Charlie Whitehurst is officially the #3 QB, so if Rivers leaves the game before the fourth quarter, it’ll be the Billy Volek Experience. More later as we get closer to kickoff.
3:08 P.M. As you watch the inane pregame blather from CBS’s studio crew, check out the preview of today’s game over at Football Outsiders. It’s very stat-heavy, so be aware those of you who are stat-sensitive, but there’s some interesting information in there. Also at FO, check out the article on what winning playoff teams have in column, and how the teams in this year’s playoffs stack up. The Titans actually are 2nd in these rankings, behind only the Colts. If you’re looking for a reason for optimism, well, that might be one. It’s also a justification for disrespecting the Patriots, as they rank 11th of the 12 playoff teams.
3:36 PM (1Q 15:00). The Titans will get the ball first, and Henry has the return out to the 28.
3:37 PM (1Q 14:54). It’s the swinging gate! VY with the quick pass to Gage, and he frickin drops it. And Gage drops an 8 yard slant on second down. !#@$!#@ of a start for the offense.
3:38 PM (1Q 14:10): FB screen to Hall on 3&10. Looks like a give-up play, but Hall breaks 4 tackles and gets 20 YAC and a first down. Looked like Tommie Frazier in the 96 Fiesta, though without the breakaway speed.
3:43 PM (1Q 12:46): A blown TO, and a flag for 12 in the huddle turns 3&1 into 3&6. VY sits, looks, then scrambles for 9 and a first down. Now it’s that stupid rollout action, but Gage snags one for a change and the Titans are down to the SD 25.
3:47 PM (1Q 9:35): Titans get another first down, but VY is affected by pressure and throws incomplete. The Chargers appeared to be offside on the play (and DVR confirms it), but it goes uncalled. Bironas hits from 30, and the Titans take a 3-0 lead.
3:54 PM (1Q 8:15): The Titans bring pressure, and Finnegan comes off the corner and brings down Rivers. I’m glad to see them bringing Finnegan off the corner-they kept bringing Harper in the Cincy game I attended, and Finnegan off the slot is a much better option. And Finnegan slams down WR Davis well short of the first down, so the Chargers open 3&out. So far, so good.
4:00 PM (1Q 6:00): The Titans end up in 3&long after VY is sacked, and the Chargers bring pressure. VY manages to get rid of the ball, but Olshansky slams him down and he’s shaken up. Shouldn’t have been a penalty, and wasn’t. Ah, well, 3&out.
4:04 PM (1Q 5:53): Oh, that’s why players like coach Fisher, he doesn’t callously ignore the injuries of non-star players. Thanks, Phil Simms! SD gets called for an o-line penalty, chop block. Well, I guess that makes up for all the times the Chargers did that the first game on Albert and got away with it. Ok, end of officiating commentary unless hugely relevant.
4:07 PM (1Q 4:00): SD goes 3&out again. Defense is standing firm so far, but the offense needs to do something other than go 3&out. 3 points won’t be enough for a win.
4:10 PM (1Q 1:45): White converts a 3&1 despite blinding running forward into a teammate. Then, it’s a Ben Troupe sighting! An actual Ben Troupe sighting! And a catch for 13! Titans back in SD territory.
4:12 PM (end 1Q): Hall gets his second carry of the game, matching his regular season total, and converts 3&1. Titans up to the SD34, on the edge of field goal range, probably, but it’d be nice to end a drive with 7 instead of 3.
4:14 PM (commercial interlude): I just saw a Brady Quinn commercial. Has any other rookie QB who’s never started a game had his own national TV commercial? I’m not talking about highly drafted guys who were supposed to start, but hadn’t yet, but a rookie who plays all 16 games and not only doesn’t start, but barely gets on the field.
4:17 PM (2Q 13:20): White up the middle on 3&1 for good yardage. The Chargers looked like UT in the VY Rose Bowl-selling out to protect the outside, and then getting gashed up the middle when the middle of the OL beats the defender in the middle and the DL.
4:18 PM (2Q 13:00): !#$!@#$! Brown gets hit in the elbow by a flying Merriman, and the ball pops up in the air, falls to the ground, and is recovered by Phillips. Charger ball at their own 9, and the Titans come away with 0 points on this trip into the red zone.
4:23 PM (2Q 10:45): Remember when the Chargers had 2&14 from their own 5? 3 plays ago? 7 easy yards to Chambers, Gates beats Bulluck for the 3rd down conversion, and Chambers splits the 2-deep safeties for 30, and the Chargers are in Titan territory. Well, it was good while it lasted.
4:26 PM (2Q 9:15): And that’s the key to the game: pressure, pressure, pressure. Rivers throws it away on 2nd down, then his third down throw is too far for Jackson to stay inbounds. The Chargers did flip field position, with the Titans starting on their own 12, but didn’t come away with any points.
4:30 PM (2Q 7:40): And the Titans don’t manage to flip field position. White for 2, White falls down on a screen and gets tackled for a loss of 4, and then Davis bobbles a pass that would at least have set up 4&2. Sproles takes it back to the Titan 43, and SD has the ball about where they lost it already.
4:32 PM (2Q 7:27): Finnegan! Chambers runs the deep post on the Chargers first play, and Finnegan’s right with him the whole way, finally picking the ball off in the end zone. Great coverage, and a great play. Contrast with JAX’s TD week 1, when Broussard beat the coverage for the score, despite safety help (I think).
4:35 PM (2Q 6:20): Well, that didn’t work. 3&out-VY’s first down pass was underthrown, a short and ineffective run, then Davis and Gage end up in the same place-I’m guessing Davis in the slot was supposed to cut in at some point, and was blocked off by the defender. That’s a play where VY probably could have run successfully-the Chargers brought pressure, and it was picked up, and most of the D appeared to be downfield covering WRs.
4:41 PM (2Q 5:15): Thornton drops an INT after KVB can’t quite bring down Rivers, and then the Chargers convert 3&12 after some busted zone coverage, I believe by Bulluck. Tomlinson only has 7 carries for 6 yards, but Rivers keeps completing passes to convert first downs.
4:43 PM (2Q 3:34): Gates slips after catching the bootleg pass, and he’s down and injured. They’re bringing the cart out, and he limps over to it. I think this is an ankle injury, based on the way he went down when he made the cut.
4:46 PM (2Q 3:06): What a turn! Chambers beats Finnegan on an out and up, but Griffin comes over and breaks up the pass in the end zone. Then, Kaeding, who was probable with a leg injury, misses right from 45 yards out. Still 3-0.
4:52 PM (2Q 1:20): 3rd down conversion to Ealy, thankfully rendering what appeared to be another missed offside moot. Then Brown has a good run for 12, bouncing off tacklers, but Troupe is flagged for holding.
4:55 PM (end 2Q): Either the officials have stopped calling offside or the Chargers are really guessing the snap count accurately. That’s at least the third time it’s happened. Fisher gets his perfect 2-minute drive, eating all the clock and setting up a half-ending field goal attempt. This one’s from 44 yards out, and Bironas is money again. 6-0 HT.
5:02 PM (half): I just checked out the Troupe hold-it’s on Phillips right on the left side of the line, and is what allowed Brown to get outside easily. It was a legit call, even if offensive holding is almost never called. Oh, and Phil Simms? If a team plays a “perfect” half, they probably score more than 6 points. It’s nice to be up, but it’s really doubtful 6 points will be enough to win the game, and the second half concerns me-the Chargers dominated the 4th quarter the previous game, and Haynesworth isn’t normally as dominant the second half. Still, it beats being down at the half.
If anybody’s out there, let me know, otherwise I’ll probably just switch to drive recaps-a less intensive form of liveblog.
5:17 PM (3Q 12:45): It’s another big pass play down the field. Jackson gets past Harper, and Griffin can’t get over in time. 35 yards down to the Titan 29. Plus, Griffin popped in to Jackson as a “tackle”, and is shaken up. This after Odom went down a couple plays earlier-defensive injuries to match the offensive ones!
5:26 PM (3Q 9:45): Fuller with a great play to stop Jackson in 3&4 from the 5, and Norv elects to take the points on 4&1 from the 2. TEN 6 – SD 3. From a matchup standpoint, this was a terrible decision by SD-TEN’s normally stout D is AWFUL on 3&1 and 4&1 runs.
5:35 PM (3Q 6:40): Titans 6&out-a 3D conversion with another apparent missed offside, but VY scrambles and throws deep on the next 3D, while Gage cuts off his route. SD immediately starts with a good gain downfield to Jackson against Finnegan. This isn’t feeling good.
5:40 PM (3Q 2:35): TD, SD. Rivers to Jackson. Griffin blows the coverage. Earlier on the drive, Griffin missed a tackle to stop LT short of a first down. Haynesworth also got a “he’s Albert Haynesworth” personal foul called. Plus, Tomlinson had a 4 yard gain, so he’s at 14 carries for 15 yards, now over 1 ypc. Titans really need to come away with a points, probably a TD this next drive.
5:53 PM (4Q 14:07): A drive down into the red zone stalls out, and Bironas pushes it wide left from 38. Very close, but that’s what it is. Good pass downfield to Troupe was the big play on the drive. Still, the Titans needed points there. 10-6. SD comes out running, still ineffectively. I like that.
6:06 PM (4Q 8:45): A key moment-LT takes the checkdown from Rivers on 3&G and ends up diving for the end zone. Ruled short, but Turner challenges it. SD loses, and it’s 4&G from the 6 inch line. SD is also out of timeouts. SD appears to be going for it, which is probably the right call. Probably just a line-up and pound it in. Tulloch stops him short, but Olivea Manumaleuna pushes LT back in and he doesn’t go to the ground. Fisher challenges, but it’s a loser. SD up 17-6, under 9 to go. It’s gonna be tough to pull this one out. !#$!@#!
6:17 PM (4Q 7:28): #!$!@#$@! Titans go 3&out, and you have to punt on 4&16. Need a defensive stop, and then some quick scores. Awful protection for VY-SD blitzed, and that was that on both 2nd and 3rd down.
6:24 PM (4Q 3:56): Titan ball inside the 5, after finally stopping the Chargers. What you need to know about today’s defensive effort: Chambers 6 catches for 121 yards, Jackson 5 for 114 and a TD. That’s over 20 yards per catch on average. And the Titans, of course, have 1 play of 20+ yards today. Want a theme? That’s definitely one of them.
6:29 PM (4Q 3:44): VY picked by Florence. Going for Davis, and Florence has underneath coverage with safety help on top. Bad read by VY. Game really feeling over now, with the Titans out of TOs.
6:36 PM (end 4Q):  A final 3rd down, and the kneels end the game.  !#$!@#$!@#$!#@$!@#%1 253 123;4 123l;41j 23;4l aj;dfs ajf;sldf a;lj1 324 4j13l;, in a nutshell.  Chargers win second half, 17-0.  Chargers with over 250 yards off offense in second half.  I’ll have a recap post up later, after I grab some food and whatnot.

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