Week 2 saw the Titans take their first road victory in a 24-7 win over a Bengals team that doesn’t seem to have too many positives to take away from this effort. The Titans, on the other hand, were able to improve to 2-0 on the season for the first time since their 1999 Super Bowl year, with a new starting quarterback and the significant challenges posed by 50mph winds.
- Kerry Collins played every bit as well as he needed to. After going 1 for 4 passing in the first two Titans drives, Collins adjusted to the wind, going towards the opposite end-zone, in the 2nd quarter. Collins led the offense to 2nd quarter TD drives of 61 and 80 yards, resulting in a 1-yard rush by LenDale White and a 11-yard strike to wideout Justin Gage. Collin’s, making his 150th career start, executed a game plan focused on pounding and protecting the ball, while limiting mistakes in the air. Kerry’s overall line- 14-21 for 128 yards and a touchdown- isn’t going to cause an outburst of pick-ups in fantasy leagues over the country (or in Nashville), but the important lack of a turnover has led to coach Jeff Fisher’s announcement of Collin’s as the starter in the forseeable future- even upon VY’s return.
- During the 1st quarter, the wind was better at moving chains than either offense was. Hurricane Ike was a big story throughout the week on most news outlets, caused the cancellation of an NFL game in Houston, and had bigger ramifications than perhaps expected in a city as far from the Gulf as Cincinnati. Neither offense came out firing (at least accurately), and in a game dictated by the run and special teams play, the wind was directly involved in a missed field goal by Shayne Graham and a mishandled long snap by punter Craig Hentrich. The common site of debris on the field might have even alluded that certain Bengals fans gave up on their concessions even before they gave up on their team.
- Two Titans offensive TD’s were more than enough for Tennessee’s D. The Titans defense again was very solid, giving up one score against a team that torched them for 35 points at Paul Brown Stadium last season. Nine of Cincinnati’s thirteen drives ended after 4 or less offensive plays in a game that saw a surprising amount of parity in terms of total yardage and time of possession. While the Titans offense only gained 80 more yards than the Bengals, Tennessee was able to limit their second straight opponent to less than 100 yards rushing in conditions not particularly conducive to an effective passing game. The Titans helped continue the Bengals passing woes, limiting heralded receivers Chad “Johnson” Ocho Cinco to 37 yards on 4 receptions and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to 26 yards on 3 receptions. Carson Palmer threw 2 int’s (next to zero touchdowns), including Cortland Finnegan’s 3rd of this young season.
- Special teams improvement. I continue to think that Tennessee needs better special teams play to more closely resemble their most successful teams of nearly a decade ago. Then, the blue-print was ball control offense, dominating defense and a special teams unit that had drastic effects on where each team started their drives. Sunday’s game saw some real steps in that front. In week 1 against Jacksonville, Tennessee was giving up nearly 20 yards per drive in average starting postion to the Jaguars. In week 2, the Titans improved their starting position by over 10 yards per drive, while the Bengals started at their own 26 as opposed to Jacksonville starting at their own 43. The Titans return game still has progress to make, considering that the majority of the improved field position had more to do with a continually thwarted Bengals offense, turnovers, and a certain blocked kick…
- Which was the nail in the coffin, and was aided by the second best special teams play of the Titan’s season as of yet. Craig Hentrich “redeemed” himself after his earlier fumble by pinning the Bengals at their own 2 in the waining moments in the 3rd quarter. Tennessee held Cincinnati to negative yardage, setting up a punt on a 4th and 11 at the 1. Defensive standout Keith Bulluck blocked and recovered Cincinnati’s punt for a touchdown, the first of what needs to many from both units not starting with an “O.”
With a convincing victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee remains solely in first place of the AFC South, with their second divisional match-up coming up next week. While Cincinnati is looking like it might shape up to be one of the punching bags of the AFC, the Titans once again beat a team that it was favored to lose to, improving to 2-0. With an unsettled situation at quarterback, Tennessee couldn’t have hoped for a better opponent to work out the kinks in a passing game much in need of development. Next week the Titans will return home and try to carry the momentum against a Houston team looking to have a much better showing than they did against the Steelers in their opening matchup. If you remember any of the Houston games from last season, then you know that it should be an interesting one.