On Sunday, Eli Manning was again the victim of an AFC South opponent. The Tennessee Titans swept the NFC North 2 years ago, the NFC West last year, and are off to a good start against the NFC East with this impressive performance.
Going into this game the question was whether the New York Giant’s beat-up offensive line could slow down a red hot Titan defensive front and protect their #10. One safety, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions later, we have our answer. Articles circulating around the internet blame the loss on Brandon Jacobs, Tom Coughlin, and just a lack of discipline. Wrong.
The other storyline was also about #10. The benching of Vince Young and the effect it could have on his play going forward was basically the only news coming out of Titans camp all week. Coming off one of his worst performances in 2 years, the critics (mainly those not affiliated with the team) were either calling for Jeff Fisher to be fired or preparing for the worst from VY. Wrong x 10.
For Eli, the day started poorly. Will Witherspoon (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass deflection) and Dave Ball (1 tackle, 1 sack) each sacked Eli, while second-year cornerback and defensive tackle, Jason McCourty and Sen’Derrick Marks each corralled the first interceptions in their young NFL careers.
For VY, the day started boring. The Titans tried to establish the running game and entrusted long 3rd down conversions in the hands of Vince Young, as usual. This formula worked early, but stalled in the 2nd quarter as the Giants started piling 8 and 9 men in the box. Again, as usual. However, not before the Titans scored 10 points. Blah, blah, blah.
Eli eventually rallied the troops, leading two scoring drives and 10 quick points in the waning moments of the 2nd quarter. This was thanks in part to a personal foul penalty on Cortland Finnegan for a questionable tackle from a senior leader on this young Titan defense.
When VY returned to the field, he was relegated to a Chris Johnson football vending machine. Then, thanks to an unusual holding penalty on Jake Scott, VY found himself walking off the field after a quick 3-and-out by an offense that seemed a little too casual closing out the first half.
VY was then handed a golden opportunity at midfield to start the second half after Marc Mariani’s brilliant 45 yard kickoff return. VY and the Titan offense stalled, setting the stage for the pivotal moment of the game.
In a Jeff Fisher scheme, most games come down to a pivotal sequence somewhere in the middle of the game (middle to late 2nd quarter or early to middle 3rd quarter).
Fisher Pivotal Sequence of the Week:
Brett Kern punts to the Giants 1 yard line (downed on a spectacular catch by Michael Griffin). Just two plays later, the Titan defense breaks through and draws an umpire’s choice (personal foul for face-masking on Adam Koets or illegal chop-block on Ahmad Bradshaw, both committed against Tony Brown who bull rushed straight through the middle of the Giant’s offensive line). Since the penalty was in the endzone the Titans were awarded a safety.
Following that play, another solid Mariani return put the Titans in a position to score. This time the Titan’s used their new momentum and put this game away for good.
For VY, this was a breakthrough moment. Not only did the coaching staff put the ball in his hands, but he came through and did what he does best. Win. With the same cold precision of Eli’s older brother, VY went 4 for 4 with 48 yards and a TD to a leaping Kenny Britt in the back of the end zone. The catch was not only reminiscent of the Titans come from behind win at LP Field last year against the Arizona Cardinals, but also of the winning quarterback that Titan fans and coaching staff know is beneath that #10.
For Eli, all he could do was watch and wonder. What if he had simply taken the sack and not done this.
For each #10 the storyline was the same. Turnovers made the difference. Eli had 2 and VY had 0. Advantage Titans #10.