The Tennessee Titans faced a lot of pressure and countless doubters coming into Thursday Night Football’s primetime contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers. At 1-4, the Titans were certainly the underdog, having been blown out in each of the four losses.
With their backs against the wall, the Titans responded with a gutsy performance. Trusty old Bironas knocked home the 40-yard game-winner, but the last second field goal hinged on one crucial 3rd down conversion at midfield.
With 3rd & 5 at midfield and less than a minute, the Titans are lined up with three wide receivers, Jared Cook in the slot, and Chris Johnson in the backfield. The Steelers basically have nine defenders at the line of scrimmage, anticipating a short throw from the Titans.
Washington and Britt run deep routes to the right, while Jared Cook runs a crossing route over the middle. The Steelers bring five pass rushers, dropping linebacker James Harrison to cover Jared Cook. CJ steps up and puts a nice block on blitzing linebacker Larry Foote, giving Hasselbeck a great pocket to scan his options.
At 34 and freshly back from injury, Harrison is completely overmatched by the younger, bigger, and faster Cook. Hasselbeck reads the mismatch and fires a dart to the crossing Cook, who is easily 3 yards ahead of the trailing Harrison. Hasselbeck’s biggest strength is his anticipation, and at the snap he immediately recognizes the defense and gets rid of the ball.
Cook catches the pass in stride and turns it up the sideline for a 25-yard gain, putting the Titans in position for the game-winning field goal. Hasselbeck raises his fist as he already knows Cook has the corner on Harrison, who should not be expected to cover a receiver as athletic as Cook.
Cook gives the Steelers the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag, knowing he was a mismatch for the aging Harrison. This was Cook’s only reception in the entire 2ndhalf. He caught all four of his targets in the game, and the Titans must emphasize getting him more involved.
And speaking of emphasis, the Titans absolutely need to resign Jared Cook to a long-term deal. As my colleague Justin Stewart pointed out in his September article, Cook has steadily improved each season and will command more money on the open market. Athletic tight ends are at a premium in today’s NFL, and resigning Cook, who is only 25 years old, must be a front office priority. He was a raw project with unlimited potential when drafted out of South Carolina, and it’d be a shame to see him fully realize that potential in another city.
To watch the full video visit: http://www.nfl.com/videos/tennessee-titans/0ap1000000079545/QB-Hasselbeck-to-TE-Cook-25-yd-pass
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