They said a great defense would show up on Sunday, but the wrong one did. The defense which led the league in several categories, including the most important one — scoring defense, couldn’t stop the Titans.
The Steelers defense hadn’t allowed a 300-yard game yet this year, but the Titans ended that streak, gaining 323. The team which formerly was best in the league in points allowed is now second, after the Titans put 31 points on the scoreboard.
On the other hand, the now number one Titans defense allowed only 14 points, forced four turnovers, had five forced fumbles, five sacks, eight quarterback hits and ten tackles for losses. The Titans shut down the Steelers’ running game, making them one-dimensional. Ben Roethlisberger had to throw a lot and he gained a lot of yards passing, but he paid a price for it. In the end, his turnovers were costly.
The following defensive players stood out to me:
Jason Jones — 3½ SK, three FF, three QH, five TKL, three TFL
Michael Griffin — two INT, one TD, 115 return yards, three PD and four TKL
Keith Bulluck — 13 TKL, one FF, two PD and two TFL
David Thornton — 11 TKL, one TFL
William Hayes — one SK, one FF, one FR
Jacob Ford — 3 TKL, 3 QH, 1 TFL
The Titans offense had their most complete game of the year. The o-line was great, paving the way for the running game and not allowing a sack by a ferocious pass rush, which had previously tallied 47 sacks. (The Steelers’ only sack on Sunday was after a missed block by a tight end.) I thought Leroy Harris did a really good job after replacing Kevin Mawae. He had some good blocks on Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh’s big nose tackle.
Kerry Collins had another efficient game and I thought some of his best passes were incompletions, when he didn’t have anything and threw the ball away. He definitely outplayed Roethlisberger and really threw the ball well into the wind.
The Justins, Gage and McCareins, both had good games. I was surprised the game plan didn’t utilize the tight ends more.
Smash and Dash both had their usual good games, this time against the league’s best rushing defense, going for over 100 yards and scoring a touchdown apiece.
Playoff picture: The Titans have now secured the AFC #1 seed and home-field advantage for the playoffs. Pittsburgh is locked in as the second seed and Indianapolis has the #5 seed locked up. The other three spots are rather simple. If Miami beats the Jets this week, they win the AFC East and will have the #3 seed. The winner of the Denver-San Diego game wins the AFC West and will be seeded fourth. If Baltimore beats the Jaguars, they claim the last playoff berth on the AFC side. The Patriots and Jets are still in contention but need help.
Next up is Indianapolis, in a game which is totally meaningless in regard to the playoff picture. Both teams will probably use the occasion to rest some players and give some reserves some more playing time.
Other: I was particularly upset about the number of Titans ticket holders who sold their seats to Steelers fans. Kudos though, to the Steeler fans, they really travel well and in great numbers, to support their team. More on that later.