AFC South: Unsung heroes

Unsung hero and goat: Tennessee Titans

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
4:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
FinneganHarper

Unsung heroes: It's not usually a good thing for defensive backs to be big tacklers. But against the Vikings, the Titans' corners had another chance to show how vital they can be to the run defense. Cortland Finnegan tied for the team lead with seven tackles while Nick Harper had six as the Titans did a pretty good job containing Adrian Peterson. The two are eager tacklers who often do a solid job of setting the edge and containing a back.

Goat: Mike Heimerdinger's early script worked very well, but the first drive ended with a field goal when it should have produced a touchdown. Rookie tight end Craig Stevens was crossing the back of the end zone and lost his bearings. When Kerry Collins' pass arrived, Stevens was stepping on the white paint and a simple catch was negated as he was out of bounds.

Unsung heroes and goat: Houston Texans

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
3:40
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Unsung heroes: The contributions of Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels were too big to go unnoticed. Kris Brown got consideration for a clutch 47-yard field that forced overtime. But the big winner is the offensive line. Matt Schaub was given great protection -- no sacks and only four hits -- and it keyed just about everything that went right for the Texans on a day the offense came alive. The run game was sufficient to win, too.

Goat: Poor tackling has been an issue through three losses. DeMeco Ryans is a great player, but his inability to bring down fullback Greg Jones after a short reception amounted to 24 additional yards (my unofficial count) and positioned the Jags for Josh Scobee's 37-yard game-winning overtime field goal. If Ryans makes that tackle, it's a loss of yardage and a second-and-long that would have still had the Jags at least 10 yards out of good field-goal range. Jacques Reeves hurt the Texans badly on the play before Ryan's too, a 24-yard reception by Matt Jones.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Barnes

Unsung hero: Since fullback Montell Owens got a lot of pub for the big "fake" punt return for a TD, we turn to left tackle Khalif Barnes. He had a poor preseason and I rated him a big concern. But he's played better and Sunday he helped hold Mario Williams to no sacks and one tackle, though he was credited with five quarterback hits. Barnes gets some credit for helping create a scenario where David Garrard could take over the game.

Goat: William James was on the field a lot once Rashean Mathis went out with a shin bruise. The corner was victimized on big pass plays to Steve Slaton and Kevin Walter. James was hardly able to help settle a secondary that started the game without injured safety Reggie Nelson and the recently IR'd Scott Starks.

Introducing 'Unsung heroes and goats'

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
2:26
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The crack staff of the AFC South blog strives to offer variety, so while last week's Tuesday theme was "Silver linings and storm clouds," this week we'll look back at AFC South teams to find "Unsung heroes and goats."

It may be hard to find heroes in big losses or goats in big wins, but we will dig. Winners can be named based on their performance over a game or their role in a specific play.

Stay tuned for installments on the Jaguars, Texans and Titans.

The Colts will be spared today, as I thought everyone did equally well on the team's bye -- no one got too high or too low and every guy just concentrated on doing his job.

We reserve the right to recycle "Storm clouds..." or Unsung heroes..." as necessitated by developments the rest of the season.

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