In the next segment, the Tennessee Titans are the focus as I answer his five questions regarding this week’s Titans/49ers matchup.
Part II of this week’s Q&A session…after the jump.
Mining the Gold Rush: The Titans finally got their first win of the year against Jacksonville this past Sunday. After weeks of struggling to find some kind of consistency, what would you say was the problem that prevented the Titans from playing at a level that people expected them to perform at?
Total Titans: The issues surrounding the Titans’ poor start are well-documented on Total Titans. Under Chuck Cecil’s tutelage, the usually-strong Titan defense has been abysmal at defending the pass while failing to generate a consistent pass-rush. On offense, with no disrespect to Chris Johnson’s explosive runs, the team was failing to sustain drives and veteran QB Kerry Collins was struggling with his accuracy, to say the least.
Interestingly, the problems that plagued the team’s pitiful 0-6 start miraculously vanished last Sunday against the Jags. With the exception of two long runs by Maurice Jones-Drew, the defense was stout and put a ton of pressure on the opposing quarterback. On offense, the team sustained drives and Vince Young was very accurate on the limited times he passed the football.
A lack of consistency was also a problem prior to last weekend. For the first time this season, the Titans performed well in all four phases of the game (offense, defense, special teams and coaching).
Mining the Gold Rush: Vince Young is back under center after sitting on the bench as Kerry Collins led the team to a division title last year, but an 0-6 start this year. What does Young bring to the team that Collins doesn’t?
Total Titans: Kerry Collins’ game-managing abilities played a key role in the team’s success in 2008. Unfortunately for the veteran signal-caller, 2009 required him to be more of a playmaker, a role that he failed at for the most part prior to his benching.
Enter Vince Young. He’s had his struggles in the past, but his ability to make plays with his legs brings a different look to the offense. On Sunday, his accuracy helped the Titans sustain drives to the tune of possessing the football for close to forty minutes.
Vince brings a spark to the huddle and with the team’s playoff hopes all but dashed, there’s no harm in giving VY the chance to prove that he can still be the guy in Nashville.
Mining the Gold Rush: The most explosive player on the Titans offense is running back Chris Johnson. With amazing breakaway speed and a 228-yard rushing performance against the Jaguars, can the 49ers rush defense (ranked 2nd in the league) stop the explosive back?
Total Titans: Riding the momentum of his successful rookie season, Chris Johnson has continued to be a nightmare for opposing defenses in 2008.
As last week indicated, give CJ the slightest opening and he can take it to the house. For the 49ers to have success, they are going to have to do a good job of surrounding Johnson with defenders. San Fran’s tacklers must be disciplined because if they whiff or choose a bad angle, there’s a good chance it’s going to be off to the races for CJ.
Personally, I’m looking forward to a few one-on-one battles between Johnson and Patrick Willis, who is already one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
Mining the Gold Rush: The Titans rank near last in some major defensive categories. With the 49ers trying to find some kind of offensive rhythm, do you think the 49ers offense can take advantage of the Titans’ recent struggles?
Total Titans: As I mentioned in my first answer, prior to the Jax game, the defense was having all kinds of troubles stopping the pass and generating pressure. Those problems disappeared against Jacksonville last Sunday, as the Titans held David Garrard to only 139 yards passing while sacking him four times.
If I were the 49ers, I’d try to take advantage of TE Vernon Davis’ athleticism by targeting him several times. Maurice Jones-Drew broke a couple of long runs against the Titans, so I’m sure Frank Gore is licking his chops.
Also, the Niners must do a good job protecting QB Alex Smith.
If the Niners can get a big play or two from Davis and Gore and keep Smith’s jersey relatively clean, they will have a good shot at victory on Sunday.
Mining the Gold Rush: Who wins the game and who is the game MVP?
Total Titans: I’m expecting a hard-fought game between two physical football teams who both personify the hard-nosed style of their head coaches.
I’m going to go with Titans 19 San Fran 16…with Vince Young continuing his comeback via another solid performance.