Week 3 saw Tennessee beat Houston in a game that should have been closer than the final score shows. Both defenses allowed big plays, and both offenses had some ugly turnovers, but Tennessee was the team that was most able to capitalize on those mistakes in this “lop-sided” win.
- While Kerry Collins’ numbers today were far from staggering, we saw the most production from the widest array of receivers that we have seen at any point this season. Collins spread the ball to six different receivers (more impressive when you consider he only completed 14 passes), seemingly bringing a few of them back to life. Justin McCareins certainly got more attention than he had with the loss of Justin Gage due to a groin injury. McCareins caught four balls for 90 yards, and was targeted a number of more times. His ability to move the ball negated his early fumble, resulting in what was easily his most productive game since re-joining the Titans this offseason. Alge Crumpler also made his biggest mark as a Titan today. The boxscore shows Crumpler with only two receptions for 26 yards, but he was thrown to in the end zone (resulting in a questionable incomplete pass that would have been negated by penalty regardless), and started to resemble the Pro-Bowler we brought in. Bo Scaife also continued to look good, being the recipient of the Titans sole receiving touchdown.
- Kerry Collins definitely benefited from the more than ample time provided by the O Line. It wasn’t just that Collins wasn’t sacked at all during the game- he was barely even pressured. Rather than having a one and done mentality in terms of singling out any particular receiver on any given play, Collins more than enough time to survey his options and make all of his check-downs. This time also allowed more plays to fully develop, with over a third of Collins 14 completions going for 17 or more yards. Tennessee might not have the most explosive receiving corp in the league, but if the line continues to give Kerry the protection that they did today, Tennessee will have a whole lot more options in the passing game.
- Houston made some bad decisions in game management in the latter portions of the game. Houston went for it on 4th down on six different occasions, converting two of them. Had Texans coach Gary Kubiak “settled” for two very make-able field goals in the second half, Houston would have only trailed by 6 with 1st and goal in the last minutes of the game. Houston’s refusal to take those easy points forced the Texans offense to try to move the ball at a much quicker pace in the last few drives than apparently they were capable of. Throw out Houston’s last drive of the game (which saw them down by 19 with 1:03 to play), and 4 of Houston’s last 5 drives ended in either interceptions or turnover on downs in Tennessee territory. That’s not pretty. Cortland Finnegan’s seemingly superficial 99 yard int. returned for a touchdown probably would have been the play of the game had the game been as close as it could have been.
- Tennessee’s defense wasn’t as good as the final score would appear. Houston only had 26 fewer yards than the Titans, and there were a number of decent Texan drives, even without particularly great field position. Tennessee gave up a number of big plays (fortunately not ending in the end-zone), and many of them were the result of very poor tackling in plays where initial contact was made long before the eventual tackle. Had Houston not been strategically negligent on more than one occasion, the score would be noticeably different. On the positive side, Tennessee had to make Kubiak’s numerous risky decisions backfire, which they were able to do. Two goal-line stands, and two late interceptions (one resulting in a defensive TD) seemed to show the defensive unit’s ability to bare down when needed. Today the big difference was that they were bailing themselves out as much as they were bailing out either the offense or special teams.
- Random notes. Steve Slaton’s 103 yards rushing in the first half was the most by any Titans opponent since giving up 100+ first half yards to the Bengals’ Corey Dillon in 1997. Standout Andre Johnson finished with only 2 receptions for 29 yards, and had a number of fairly catchable balls thrown to him in the end-zone, resulting in no touchdowns. Had he brought in one of these, the complexion of the game would have certainly changed early on, and a wideout of his stature should have brought in at least one of them. Tennessee’s first play from scrimmage was an interception to Jacques Reeves that led to the first 3 points of the game. Kerry “crazy legs” Collins rushed for 30 yards on three carries, plays in which he was unscaithed. Michael Griffin added two picks to his season total, including an acrobatic play in which he tipped the ball to himself.
It would be hard to imagine the Titans in any better position than where they sit now. Tennessee is 3-0 in this young season (2-0 in the division), and have a two game lead on both Jacksonville and Indianapolis. The Titans schedule hasn’t changed at all in the last week, so it still seems to be incredibly favorable in the upcoming weeks. It is very early to make any huge, broad statements, but I feel comfortable in saying that the Titans continued success, coupled with the unexpected parity in the rest of the conference make Tennessee one of the teams to beat in the AFC.