The Tennessee Titans were in a prime time match up against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Thursday night. It was a game many people, including myself, didn’t believe the Titans had a legitimate chance. Tennessee has been plagued with poor coverage, an inability to get to the quarterback and countless unnecessary penalties.
To be completely honest, they seemed on a fast track to a top-5 draft pick next April. That is not what it was like inside the locker room however, because the Titans came out with some fire. They didn’t dominate at anytime throughout the game, but they played as a unit. The importance of a defense playing as a unit is something overlooked by the majority of casual fans. It has not been just one or two players that have been the active ingredient in the pitiful performances by this defense thus far; it is mainly due to the defense not playing together as a cohesive unit.
That all changed against the Steelers. One can say it is because of their injuries or that their offensive line is poor, but they are still the Steelers. They have shown a great ability of airing it out all season and that didn’t stop against the Titans, but it’s points allowed that matters, right?
The defense has a lot to improve on and I personally think they still lack talent in a couple positions. They played well as a unit, only 55% of the total tackles were solo compared to a 68% average of the previous 5 games, but there are a couple players that really stepped up Thursday night.
Derrick Morgan, former 1st round pick, former ACL surgery under-goer, former complete let down, was nearly dominate all across the line. He has showed excellent instincts in run defense thus far this season, but on Thursday night football he was that and more.
Morgan recorded 3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass defended and 2 QB hits. None of the numbers are high, but they are well rounded in each aspect of what Tennessee expects of him as a defensive end. Mike Martin — the rookie that just took the starting roll from Sen’Derrick marks — he was in on 6 tackles, had one for a loss and supplied constant pressure on Big Ben.
Jason McCourty was torched by Mike Wallace for an 82 yard touchdown, but he redeemed himself when he read the eyes of Big Ben and intercepted a go-route.
Jordan Babineaux showed why Tennessee signed him to an extension while his competition, Robert Johnson, showed why he wasn’t an early draft pick. Johnson missed a key tackle on Isaac Redman that lead to a 55 yards catch and run. If Gray wants to apply more exotic pressures, as he did in this game, he needs to make sure he has sure tackling in the back 7. Robert Johnson doesn’t scare anyone, especially not a 240lb running back.
Special teams has been a huge bright spot for the Titans this season. In the past few weeks we have seen touchdowns and excellent field goal kicking on special teams and on Thursday they kept Tennessee in the game with a blocked punt on the Pittsburgh 1 yard line. It was a missed assignment on behalf of the Steelers, but who cares…the Titans took advantage of the opportunity.
The Tennessee Titans have a nice young core of talent on this roster, but I am not sure if Jerry Gray has quite grasped what they are all capable of. Maybe he has. It’s possible that the learning curve of the NFL is still affecting them. It will take time, but the flashes of greatness are there.
My grade: B-