Titans Victorious: Defense and Rushing (Not Quarterback Change) Key
Who gets the credit?
Before we determine that, let's look at some numbers so we can put our emotions and opinions in perspective, shall we?
Player No. 1's numbers look like this: 15-of-18 for 125 yards, one touchdown.
Player No. 2's numbers look like this: 24 attempts for 228 yards, two touchdowns.
Now, if you didn't already know I was taking about the Titans, which player would you say contributed more to the victory?
Anyone who said player No. 1 is an intractable bore.
Yes, Vince Young will be credited with the Titans' first win of the season, although he didn't do much more than—dare I say it?—manage the game. Going 15-of-18 for 125 yards is a pedestrian effort by ANY standard. For most quarterbacks this side of high school, that would be considered an off game.
Young, however, gets to look at those numbers and think he did something special.
"Wait a minute!" you cry. "Vince was able to threaten to run, and that was what made the difference!"
Really? Well then let's do another numbers comparison.
Player No. 1: Three attempts, 22 yards, longest run of 12 yards. Average of 7.3 yards per carry.
Player No. 2: 12 attempts, 30 yards, longest run of eight yards. Average of 2.5 yards per carry.
Which player, based on average yards per carry, looks like the more dangerous runner?
Player No. 1, you say? If you didn't, you should: 7.3 yards per carry is nothing to sneeze at. But those were David Gerrard's numbers, and it didn't seem to matter much.
"Wait a minute!" you exclaim. "Vince ran it 12 times, so he obviously is a bigger threat to run the ball!"
Really? At 2.5 yards per carry, I would let him do that all day. First-and-ten, second-and-8 (they round UP, guys), third-and-5, fourth-and-two. How many times are they gonna go for it on fourth-and-two?
Not too many. Three-and-out, punt.
Besides, if the quarterback is having to run all the time, what does that say about the pass protection, or the receiver's ability to get open for a pass? Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Don't get me wrong; I'm happy for the Titans, happy for the Titans fans who spend good money to see their team compete.
But the difference in this game was NOT who was under center.
The difference in this game was not solely the fact that Chris Johnson ripped off 228 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, although that didn't hurt. But he's been running past defenders all year, and the Titans were 0-6 before today.
No, the difference is that the defense actually remembered how to play football .
For a while there it didn't look like Tennessee would pull it off, despite Johnson's stellar performance and Young's expert management of the game. Maurice Jones-Drew ripped off two 80-yard touchdown runs, and it looked like that was going to take the wind out of the Titans' sails.
But apparently the specter of losing again after being trounced—and rightfully blamed, I might add—by New England 59-0 was too much for the defense to bear, and they stepped up their game.
Or maybe the curse was actually lifted; either way, Tennessee's defense began to play with some heart, and it showed.
Stephen Tulloch's hit on David Gerrard in the third quarter made my chest hurt.
Cortland Finnegan remembered how to play the Cover-2 zone, and picked Gerrard off early in the fourth quarter to put a stop to a potential scoring drive.
Kyle Vanden Bosch got his first sack of the year—yes, of the year —as part of a four-sack effort put on by a suddenly inspired defensive unit.
And again, Vince Young's performance was more "don't screw up" than "go out and win it for us": he threw his last pass with more than five minutes left in the third quarter, his longest pass was 18 yards, and all in all he did a tolerable job of proving that he knows which way to turn when handing the ball off.
So let's not crown him the future of the organization just yet; I'm sure all the kool-aid drinkers out there are rushing to buy their VY jerseys right now, but keep a little perspective, folks.
Chris Johnson is far, and away more valuable to the Titans organization right now that Young is. Until he shows he can put the team on his shoulders and win with his arm and his legs, instead of dumping short passes over the middle, scrambling a few times, and handing off for 75 percent of the game, Vince Young is nothing more than an efficient snap receiver and hand-off specialist who happens to be able to run and throw a little bit.
In short, after Sunday's performance, he is as worthy of the tag "game manager" as Kerry Collins, or any other quarterback, ever was.
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