You barely survived without it. You clamored for its return. Herewith, the Titans Sixer in all its glory.
The Titans beat the Texans 31-17 Sunday at LP Field. What follows are six things I think I learned about the boys in powder blue., who managed to end a six-game losing streak.
1. Jeff Fisher isn’t gonna go quietly. A six-game losing streak can take a toll on a coach, physically, mentally, emotionally. NFL coaches, by their nature, are not guys who like to be questioned. About anything. So when little old ladies and bag boys at Kroger are starting to ask why you can’t win it wears on you. Fisher has looked haggard and seemed on edge at times during this rough stretch. Was TE Bo Scaife really benched Sunday so the Titans could keep eight defensive linemen active, as the coach said, or was he on the inactive list because he told The Tennessean during the week that the locker room was divided over the treatment of Vince Young? Fisher seems to be relishing every opportunity to zing Young in some form or fashion. Witness No. 2.
2. Fisher was unmoved by Vince Young’s appearance. Young slipped onto the sidelines near the end of the first half and hung out till the fourth quarter. Some teammates said they were happy to see him; others, like Fisher, said they had no idea he had been there. Fisher couldn’t resist taking a shot, either. “Most injured reserve players, not all of them but most of them, are here. They come before the game starts, they stay until it’s over with.” Can you feel the love?!?
3. Jason Babin may be pricing himself out of the market. The Titans got Babin for one year and $1 million. That’s bargain basement when you consider what he has delivered: a career-high 12 sacks, the most of any defensive end in the league. Babin told Sportsinthe615 this week that he wanted to stay in Nashville. “I really feel like I’m gonna be here,” Babin said. “I bought into the system. They like me and I like them.” But you have to wonder. On the one hand if anyone should know what a system means to him, it’s Babin, who never has been used as well as he has here under d-line coach Jim Washburn. On the other hand, he also has never seen the kind of money that gets thrown at defensive ends who produce like he has this season.
4. Fernando Velasco deserves a lot of credit. It’s not often a center gets much, but listen to what Kerry Collins had to say about Velasco’s first career start at center: “We made a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage. A lot of the things they (the Texans) do blitz-wise were critical for him to make the right calls and everything. I thought he did an outstanding job. I’m glad to see him play well with the opportunity he’s been given. He’s a guy who has helped us out a couple of times this year.” Velasco helped open holes that allowed Chris Johnson to rush for 130 yards, tied for his third-best output this season.
5. Kenny Britt has a chance to be the next Randy Moss. When I say that I don’t mean the current Moss, I mean the Hall of Fame Moss. Britt changed direction on one reception Sunday, nearly pirouetting all the way around to make a grab, and you just knew there were only maybe a handful of receivers in the league who could have made the same play. Physically Britt is a freak. If his desire to improve on the mental side catches up, the sky is the limit. Will it? Not if you listen to Britt, who tossed out this gem this week when asked about the notebook Moss keeps on cornerbacks: “I don’t wanna see it. I didn’t like books in school and I don’t like them now.”
6. Chris Johnson, while still very good, no longer has a fifth gear. If you were at LP Field Sunday you know that’s a true statement. I don’t care whether a defender had an angle or not, last year he was gone on at least two plays where the Texans caught up to him. If DeSean Jackson asks for a match race, CJ better stay off his Twitter account.
The Titans’ “Sixer,” a six-pack of things I believe I learned about the team, after another ugly loss, the Titans’ fifth in a row. Herewith “the Sixer” on the 17-6 debacle against the Jaguars:
1. If the Titans’ locker room is only big enough for one of them, Vince Young’s injury might have given him the edge over Jeff Fisher. Take a look at last week’s “Sixer,” where I wrote that a nine-game losing streak is a very real possibility. Four games remain — two against the Colts, a home game against the Texans and a road game against the Chiefs. It’s doubtful the Titans will be favored in any. If this team goes from 5-2 to 5-11, it paves the way for Titans owner Bud Adams to part ways with Fisher and keep his beloved quarterback. Yes, the Titans have fought injuries and an uncommon amount of off-field distractions, but someone has to fall on the sword if this turns out as badly as it looks like it will right now.
2. This team has a dearth of offensive playmakers. The Titans haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in 13 quarters plus an overtime. Who on the offensive side of the ball strikes fear in an opposing defense? It used to be Chris Johnson. I’m not even sure he does anymore. Secondaries aren’t shaking in their Nikes over the likes of Nate Washington, Justin Gage or even Randy Moss. Isn’t it time rookie Damian Williams got a shot? The offense can’t be any worse. You know who the good teams in the NFL are nowadays? The ones who keep stockpiling offensive talent even when people think they have enough offense.
3. The safeties should burn the Jaguars game tape before Monday. Chris Hope and Michael Griffin didn’t play well on Sunday. Not that Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t make the entire Titans defense look like a Pee Wee team, but MJD plowed over Griffin in the first half and stiff-armed him to the ground in the fourth quarter so badly I had to look away as though I was watching the LT-Theismann replay. Hope, as good a guy as there is in the locker room and a standup guy, missed a couple of tackles badly, including one where David Garrard basically shrugged him off on his way to the end zone.
4. The defensive front seven should burn the Jaguars game tape before Monday. The Jaguars rushed for 258 yards like they were Auburn playing LSU. LB Stephen Tulloch said, ““I’ve never been a part of something like that in my five years here. We have to dig deep and find out what’s going on because that’s not what this team is about.” Jacksonville blew the Titans off the ball on nearly every one of their 53 carries. Garrard gained 3 yards on a third-and-1 sneak in the second quarter. That pretty much says it all.
5. The offense should burn the Jaguars game tape … and the Texans game tape … and the Redskins game tape … you get the picture. Right now this team has a better chance to score on defense or in the return game than it does on offense. Marc Mariani has more touchdowns (one) over the past three games than Chris Johnson, Randy Moss, Nate Washington and Bo Scaife combined. It would be fair to criticize the play-calling, but see No. 2 (above). Who do you expect to make a big play? Here’s another ugly stat: The Titans’ time-of-possession deficit during their five-game losing streak is 190:35 to 116:08. THAT’S 74 MINUTES AND 27 SECONDS OVER FIVE GAMES. THAT’S A GAME-AND-A-QUARTER. THAT’S INSANE. Sorry, thought that deserved all caps. Didn’t want anyone to miss it.
6. Faith Hill must have known something. Check the blog from Friday. She picked the Jaguars to win in The Tennessean on Thursday after picking the Titans to win the past 27 in a row. Did she get to somebody? Have inside information?
Where’s the faith, Faith?
For the first time since she began picking NFL games in The Tennessean at the start of the 2009 season, country artist Faith Hill has picked against her hometown Titans.
Hill had picked the Titans to win their past 27 consecutive games before her surprise choice of the Jaguars this Sunday at LP Field. The newspaper runs her picks along with those of columnists David Climer and Joe Biddle and beat writers Jim Wyatt and John Glennon on Thursdays.
Just last week Hill picked the Titans at Houston while all four of the other panelists chose the Texans. The Texans won 20-0.
Efforts to reach Hill via her New York publicist were unsuccessful.
At best Hill’s choice this week is a curious one. Yes, the Titans are mired in a four-game losing streak, but they beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville 30-3 on Oct. 10. And it looks increasingly like quarterback Kerry Collins will return to the lineup after missing the past few games with a calf injury.
Hill went 171-86 last season, beating all of The Tennessean cognoscenti despite picking the Titans to win 16 in a row. According to Tennessean sports editor Larry Taft the week’s games are e-mailed to Hill’s publicist on Mondays and returned to the sports department via e-mail on Wednesdays.
“I don’t have a clue as to why (she picked the Jaguars),” Taft told Sportsinthe615. “We never ask.
“But it adds a lot of oomph for us to have her picks. It has an impact for us.”
Taft said as far as he knows Hill makes the picks herself, and he believes she takes it seriously.
“She’s very competitive,” Taft said. “She’s always interested in how she did the week before.”
We’ll see if the Franklin resident and country star knows something the others don’t. Hill is in last place this season with a 99-73 mark. Wyatt leads at 109-63. He’s picking the Titans.