Sunday, September 15, 2013
Tennessee Titans a defensive team so far
By Paul Kuharsky
HOUSTON -- The rebuilt interior offensive line, a motivated Chris Johnson, the addition of Delanie Walker and Shonn Greene, a healthy Kenny Britt, the weight loss of Kendall Wright.
Even with a quarterback in Jake Locker who hasn't established himself, I expected the Tennessee Titans to be an offensive football team. And I was hardly alone.
But two games into the season, the offense has some catching up to do.
The Titans' defense allowed a couple of big plays on well-thrown balls by Matt Schaub during a game-tying drive late in regulation and the game-winning march in overtime.
Still, the defense was the better unit against the Texans Sunday.
The Titans' defense sacked Schaub twice and hit him six more times in an up-and-down rush effort. The defense allowed Houston to run for 79 yards on the their game-opening touchdown drive but then the unit fared OK against the run, allowing 3.8 yards a carry against a very fine rushing team. It scored a touchdown on a 23-yard pick-six by cornerback Alterraun Verner. It watched the offense give up a safety. And it endured the Titans' offense going three-and-out on seven of 14 offensive drives.
Houston’s ultimate yardage numbers were pretty good: 172 on the ground, 298 in the air. The Titans' offense could have offset that with more than an average of 3.7 yards per offensive play.
With 4:59 left in the game, Verner’s score put Tennessee ahead 24-16.
A tired defense gave up too many plays from there and the offense left it to do too much.
Jason McCourty followed Andre Johnson around for much of the game, helping limit the Texans' primary weapon to eight catches for 76 yards before he left to be examined for a concussion.
McCourty said he would have been pleased with those numbers if they came in a win.
But the Titans' top corner was on Johnson during a 21-yard pass to the Tennessee 2-yard line. The pass was initially ruled incomplete, but referee Jeff Triplette determined on review that Johnson did control the ball as he landed on the white stripe.
McCourty was also with rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins in overtime on a third-and-10 from the Tennessee 26. Hopkins went up and snatched the pass for a 25-yard gain near the right front pylon. Three plays later, Hopkins beat McCourty on the 3-yard touchdown that withstood review and won the game.
“I’ve got to find a way to make plays late in that game,” McCourty said. “There were three plays in the fourth quarter and overtime I’ve got to find a way to make. ... It doesn’t count that you’re in good position. I’ve got to find a way to get the ball out. This team expected me to make those plays and I expect to make them. I’ve got to do a better job.”
Of course the two Hopkins catches wouldn’t have been an issue if the Titans' offense could have moved to just a field goal when it got the ball with 1:53 left at their 20-yard line. The offense had driven 99 yards for a touchdown on its previous drive.
But they went three-and-out with Locker overthrowing a wide open Britt in the face of a big blitz on third down.
“Our defense has been playing fast and been playing real good,” said Walker, who caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Locker on the 99-yard drive. “We’ve got to match that as an offense. We have been slow. But I feel like week to week we’re going to get better."
Said center Rob Turner: “When you make adjustments you have to get a feel for things. And we’ve got new parts kind of moving around and so it’s one of those things we’re just going to do everything we can to get timing, clean up stuff as the weeks go on, as the days go on and try to get better as far as execution.”