The Tennessee Titans hadn’t produced many highlights so far in 2012, but in week 3 against the Lions the Titans generated 5 touchdowns over 60 yards, a new NFL record. In the first two weeks we analyzed Locker’s touchdown pass and Verner’s interception, so let’s balance it out and examine a special teams highlight for week 3.
Darius Reynaud’s 105-yard kickoff return was a thing of beauty, but without a doubt the most exciting play for the Titans was the second rendition of the Music City Miracle. While the circumstances this week were not nearly as dire as those back in 2000 against the Bills, the Titans desperately needed a spark considering they had failed to score a touchdown in the first half so far this season.
With less than a minute in the first quarter, the Lions are punting from their own 25-yard line. The Titans are playing for the return and not the block, as you can see we have 2 blockers for each “gunner” of the Lions. According to the NFL Rules Digest, a “gunner” is classified as an eligible receiver on the punting team, and therefore when the ball is snapped, he is permitted to start running downfield to cover the returner.
As the ball is on the far side of the field, it’s a good bet that the Lions will attempt a directional kick to that side, thereby shrinking the space that Reynaud will have to return the punt.
At the snap of the ball, the Lions gunner nearest the camera breaks to the inside of Ryan Mouton and Tommie Campbell. It should be noted that the Lions gunner is #10 Kassim Osgood. He may not be a household name, but any special teams coach would rave about how effective he is. He represented the AFC in the Pro Bowl in 2006, 2007, and 2009 for special teams, so he’s certainly not a slouch at covering kickoffs and punts. The Lions other gunner isn’t even in the picture as he’s been dominated by the Titans other 2 blockers.
The Lions punter Ben Graham has pinned Reynaud to the left sideline, and the Lions appear to be in good position to cover the return with 3 players already downfield. Mouton is still trying to slow up Osgood, but Tommie Campbell has stopped blocking and is slipping outside of the punt coverage. Osgood hasn’t noticed that Campbell has intentionally done this, so he’s completely unaware of what’s about to happen.
Reynaud fields the punt at the 38-yard line. He takes 2 hard steps to the 40-yard line to draw the pursuit, and then he throws (left-handedly) a nice lateral pass to an awaiting and wide-open Campbell at the 35-yard line. This lateral clearly travels backwards, so there will be no controversy as there was in the original Music City Miracle.
Now, it’s off to the races, and Tommie Campbell certainly has speed. The Titans utilized Campbell’s speed last year on special teams, running a reverse kickoff against the Buccaneers that went for a touchdown as well. Meanwhile the return team has set up a wall of blockers on the right side of the field, and Campbell bolts up the sideline with excellent blocking. The Lions punter makes a halfhearted attempt to catch Campbell, only to injure his calf and be lost for the game.
Campbell waltzes into the end zone to celebrate with Griffin, and he consequently leaps into the stands for a moment with the fans. Notice the guy to the right in the #10 jersey. I sure hope that’s a Locker and not a VY, but you can’t fault a guy for not wanting to purchase another $100 jersey.
This was just one of several spectacular plays by the Titans in this game. We can’t rely on huge plays every week to win, but it’s evident that the Titans have explosive athletes in all phases of the game. I was surprised to learn that Reynaud has never played quarterback because that pass to Campbell was pretty nice, and I doubt the Lions scouting report included information about a left-handed returner. It’s also relieving to see our coaches getting more creative with the play calling.
I’m all for Tommie Campbell getting on the field any way he can, even if he has to spell CJnoK in the backfield from time to time.
To watch the full video visit http://www.nfl.com/videos/tennessee-titans/0ap2000000064733/WK-3-Can-t-Miss-Play-Music-City-throwback
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