Sometimes you win by crushing your opponent’s will early, at times by capitalizing on their mistakes, and others by simply holding on by your fingertips. Scratching, stretching, clawing, and crawling. Here is the Titan Sized tirade from Week 5’s tilt against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Titans have only scratched the surface of the passing ability for this offense behind Vince Young. Jeff Fisher and Mike Heimerdinger gave VY plenty of chances early, calling passing plays on 16 of the first 20+ plays. VY was up to the task going 6-10 for 95 yards and 2 TDs in the first 4 drives. Only the last of the 4 drives ended without points, as the Titans jumped out to a 17-3 lead.
The Cowboys offensive line and coordinator Jason Garrett could only scratch their heads in confusion, while giving up 5 first half sacks to the best pass rushing defense in the NFL. In reading recaps of this game, it is interesting to see more analysts accusing the Cowboys of sloppy play, than acknowledging that sometimes holding penalties and false starts are the acts of over-matched offensive lines.
Playing against Tony Romo and the Cowboys is a stretching experience for any rookie cornerback trying to cut his teeth. However, not only did Alterraun Verner hold his own (again) on Sunday, but he came up with the play of the game, intercepting a deflected pass and nearly converting it for a touchdown. Verner will return an interception for a touchdown this year, all he needs to do is stretch a little further.
Late in the 4th quarter, the Cowboys’ Marc Colombo was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct (illegal participation in a touchdown celebration). Although, I agree this penalty was a stretch (especially that late in a close game), so would be the belief that this penalty altered the outcome of the game. If the Titans had won by a field goal? Maybe. But, poor kickoff coverage after the penalty, a hollow defensive stand following said return, or falling behind 2 touchdowns in the first quarter are all more likely culprits for this loss.
This season has been a tough on Chris Johnson. But CJ2K did not rush for 2,006 yards last season by being impatient. CJ2K got back on track Sunday, rushing for 131 yards and 2 TDs on only 19 carries. Not through clawing for yards greedily at the end of dead end runs or trying to stretch plays that were bottled up. Through patience and bursts of speed. Well done, CJ.
The Cowboys’ Mike Jenkins had quite possibly one of the worst outings for a professional corner I have seen in a long time. His clawing at Nate Washington and Kenny Britt’s jerseys to start the game were so blatant and so lazy, they were hard to watch. He eventually calmed down, but not before spotting the Titans 48 yards of pass interference yards. Disgraceful.
Kenny Britt had huge plays this week, including a 52 yard strike and another leaping TD catch to add to his impressive collection. The 52-yarder was initially an 80-yard TD catch, until it was overturned upon review. After laying out to make the catch, Britt crawled to his feet and sprinted 28 meaningless yards. Still, it was nice to see Britt make a heads-up play.
I like Tony Romo. Yet, there was one play by Romo that should not sit well with Cowboy fans. With the Titans creating relentless pressure early, Romo gave the Titan line a free sack by completely giving up and falling to the turf instead of risking another crushing hit. This crawling act of submission is hard to defend, even if it is a compliment to the Titan defensive line.
This win compensates for a loss the Titans surrendered to an inferior Broncos team in the previous week. The Titans have now won 12 consecutive games against NFC opponents, the longest active streak among any team. Can you imagine if the Titans played in the NFC West?
Finally, this win for the Titans put together their 2 previous wins and added a missing component that cost them last week versus the Denver Broncos. Holding on. If this team is to become a legitimate playoff contender, they will have to not only get ahead early, but hold onto those leads at the end of close games like this one.