Lions vs. Titans Take Two: Big Plays from Locker, Cook, Just About Everyone Else
Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE
Sometimes, you have to rub your eyes, blink a couple of times and say, "Let me see that again!"
If ever there was a game that required repeat viewing, this was it.
Here are my thoughts after further review of the back-and-forth shocker.
The Real Story
The Titans have acquired a healthy collection of playmakers.
That word is often cringe-inducing because it becomes a catch-all for "better players than the ones on the roster now," but when you watch Tennessee, you can't help but notice how many odd and explosive plays they generate.
It's Jake Locker kicking up a gear while scrambling.
It's Nate Washington leaping over poor, confused Jacob Lacey.
It's Alterraun Verner ripping the ball away from Brandon Pettigrew.
Tennessee has been acquiring athletes for several years now in the draft, and the result is a game with scores of big, explosive plays surrounded by general philosophical chaos on defense.
Despite the plethora of "unrepeatable" plays, the Titans generally moved the ball well, and on the whole, outplayed Detroit.
The better team won in Nashville in Week 3.
This discussion has to start with Locker. He played the best game of his young career, and while there were still a few cringe-filled plays, for the most part, he was terrific.
The Titans are building something offensively, and you can see it coming together. There are still going to be ugly moments, but overall, the direction is appealing.
The other names of note are legion. Verner's play on Pettigrew should have ended the game. Washington's play will make every NFL highlight real for years. Darius Reynaud played a mammoth role in two returns.
The play that most resonated, however, may be Jared Cook's 61-yard catch and run and run over. As he bounced off defenders on his way to the end zone, more than one fan turned to the guy next to him to say, "That's a football player!"
The secondary was brutal for the third straight week. Allowing Calvin Johnson to ring up 10 catches for 164 yards should be a federal offense. It's not like everyone doesn't know who the guy is.
Akeem Ayers probably doesn't deserve to be singled out, but his tip of the hail Mary to end regulation was about as dumb a play as a defender can make in that situation.
The Secret Play
Picking a major highlight as the "secret play" is cheating, but the 31-yard run by Locker to set up the end-of-the-half field goal was both spectacular and important.
He broke the pocket, and once he had the first down, he accelerated past four different Lions defenders before the fifth finally brought him to the ground.
It was an impressive athletic feat, but also move the Titans in close to field goal range before the half. The lead they built wouldn't hold, but every point proved crucial by the end of the game.
Aside from the fact that the Lions obviously made some adjustments the Titans weren't ready for, Mike Munchak wasn't deluged with tough calls.
He elected for a field-goal try on 4th-and-2 from the 23 in the third quarter, but it would have put the Titans up 14 points, so it's hard to quibble there.
He also went for the go-ahead field goal on 4th-and-2 from the eight yard-line in overtime. No one will ever criticize it, but it might not have been the best play.
Given that the Lions were going to get the ball back and had scored at will in the second half, it was reasonable to assume that a field goal would not be enough to win the game.
Munchak lucked out when the Lions botched their own attempt on the other end of the field, but he nearly learned the hard way that coaching not to lose is a great way to get beat.
Keep an Eye On
The defense is not a sore subject; it's a festering open wound. The entire secondary, with the exception of Verner, looks lost on virtually every play.
The offense has an excuse to be sporadic. Locker is a wild card and a young player in development.
Either Colin McCarthy is the greatest player alive or something is broken.
With the Texans next up, it has to get fixed fast.
This win loosens things up for the Titans going forward. Other than perhaps the Houston game, seven of the next eight ball games look very winnable. Overall, the Titans play the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Colts five times before the end of the year.
If the Titans can figure out how to make a stop defensively, they could get on a nice run through to December and, with a few breaks, beyond.
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