The Titans’ Sixer: Defense continues to lead the way
After every Titans game I’ll post a six-pack of things I believe I learned about the team. Herewith “the Sixer” on the 29-10 road win against the Giants that moved the Titans to 2-1:
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Tennessee+Titans&iid=9857948″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9857948/new-york-giants-tight-end/new-york-giants-tight-end.jpg?size=500&imageId=9857948″ width=”320″ height=”412″ /]1. This team is about defense, first and foremost. Yes, it’s still about Chris Johnson, too. But if this is a playoff team it will be because the defense carries it there. The defense had three takeaways, the first of which gave the offense a short field for the first points of the game and the other two of which snuffed out Giants drives in the red zone. It’s a feisty unit that clearly got under the skin of the G-men as though they were these bedbugs everyone is talking about. The front four drew three personal-foul calls from New York offensive linemen that helped quite a bit, too.
2. The Titans by necessity are frontrunners. They need to score early because it’s not an offense that responds well to being behind. From Vince Young to CJ to Mike Heimerdinger, everyone seems to relax more even with just a bit of a lead. The Titans threw on first down six times, including three consecutive times in the third quarter after a safety gave Tennessee a 12-10 lead. That stretch in the third quarter was pivotal. The Titans got great field position at their own 49 following the free kick, and ‘Dinger let VY sling it for 12 yards to Justin Gage, 10 to Nate Washington and 13 to Kenny Britt. The result? First-and-10 at the NYG 16. Three plays later Young hit Britt for a 13-yard touchdown and the game was pretty much over.
3. The running game still isn’t what anyone expected. Seventeen of CJ’s 32 carries went for 2 yards or less. He finally broke a 42-yarder in the fourth quarter to push his total past the 100-yard mark, but he still looks tentative to me. Of the league’s top seven rushers Johnson (4.0) has by far the lowest per-carry average. I know he’s a home-run hitter. I’ve written that several times. But he has to hit more singles and do less striking out. Whether it’s still offensive line communication or execution trouble, there still is a lot of room for improvement in the running game.
4. Jeff Fisher owns Tom Coughlin. OK, in truth, Fisher is 11-7 against his old nemesis for so many years with the Jaguars. But this one was important for both teams, and Coughlin’s bunch was frustrated throughout and never got in a groove.
5. The special teams have been a plus instead of an embarrassment. Entering the games Sunday night and Monday night the Titans ranked eighth in the league in punt-return average and 11th in kickoff-return average. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but the Titans ranked 25th in punt returns last year and 29th in kickoff returns. Marc Mariani’s 45-yard kickoff return to start the second half essentially got the ball rolling toward the safety that gave the Titans a 12-10 lead. His return gave Tennessee great field position, but even when the drive stalled safety Michael Griffin made a terrific play to down Brett Kern’s punt at the NYG 1. The safety occurred three plays later.
6. LB Will Witherspoon already has been well worth his free-agent money. He has one sack in each of the first three games. I’m not about to proclam he’s gonna end with 16 sacks, but however Chuck Cecil has drawn it up ‘Spoon has come clean for an easy sack three games in a row. Witherspoon also was the guy draped all over Eli Manning’s right arm when he decided to try a lefty toss into the end zone that was picked off by Jason McCourty. The guy has made some big plays so far.