I think we in the Tennessee Titans bandwagon got a little comfortable cruising around Oakland. Once we got around Pittsburgh, we encountered a little turbulence.
The Pittsburgh Steelers capitalized on every single mistake the Titans made, creating fumbles, hurrying both Vince Young and Kerry Collins, creating mismatches on receiver coverage, and just plain outplaying the Titans. It was only by the skin of the Titans' teeth that they managed to bring the score back up to 19-11 in the waning seconds of their defeat in Week 2 of the 2010 NFL season.
Their onside kick (and subsequent recovery) was also a good idea, but they seemed to lack the hustle to make anything of it. The Steelers defense finally tired out as the last seconds ticked, with the exception of Troy Polamalu, who should have been flagged for jumping over the Titans' offensive line to sack Kerry Collins. Can the Titans overcome the miscues of Week 2 and make something worthwhile of this 2010 season? Or, on the inverse, should the Titans just play to not get anyone hurt and hope for next year?
Call me an optimist, but I think they can have a decent year this year. Why do I think this? By doing a few things differently, the Titans can have a big year.
Focus on the run game.
The Titans have been ineffective on the ground against good defenses. Pittsburgh has a good defense and they squashed Tennessee's run game, only allowing 46 yards on the ground. Chris Johnson broke out for 86 yards in the second, only to have it called back on a holding penalty assessed to Eugene Amano. The Titans seriously need to focus their offensive line for the run. Yes, the O-Line is one of the best in the league at protecting against the rush, but they have shown that against a solid defense, they are incapable of creating holes for the run without holding. With a great back in Johnson and a good backup RB in Javon Ringer, the Titans need to focus on the run first and let the pass be a secondary weapon.
Check down, not air it out.
Vince Young and Kerry Collins both tried to hit the deep routes against the Steelers, only to find little to no success. The Titans need to run more two tight end formations. If Jared Cook is so awesome, we need to maximize his abilities along with those of Bo Scaife. Both of these guys are big, strong ends with good catching skills and solid football minds. The Titans need to treat every situation like it’s a fourth and goal and check it down to the big guys on, say, a 5-8 yard check down pass. This is not to take away from guys like Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, but if they have little to no success in the air, checking down will cause the defense to anticipate a check down, giving Britt, Washington, Gage and company a little more room in the secondary.
Play more zone defense.
Man defense just isn’t cutting it. Receivers are getting too much space to work with and, whether or not they are given much in the way of YAC (Yards After Catch), they still are getting 10 and 15 yard receptions on each play. The Titans could stand to play more zone and get in the faces of the receivers. What happened to the interception-happy secondary the Titans used to have? It seems like the secondary is afraid to confront receivers, possibly out of fear of a penalty. While I can understand that, the referees also give a little leeway. A receiver is going to push slightly, just as a cornerback or a safety is going to interfere a bit. They understand that. It is much like in most towns, police give drivers a 5 mph buffer zone. The Titans need to push the envelope a little. They need to show receivers that they aren’t going to give them much, making the receiver work a little harder and have to think about who is behind them/in front of them. Make them hear the footsteps, strike a little fear.
Play all four quarters.
Don’t rest on a good first half. Don’t rest on a bad first half. When you go out after halftime, think about it as a brand new start. Go out and create havoc. Play like a fresh team. This game is a very physical game, but my time in the Army has told me that despite the physical beatings you may endure, you can overcome anything with mental toughness. The Titans have to get tough and overcome it all. If you screw up, let it go and go at it again with more toughness. This will most certainly equate into more wins.
The Titans have the players to be a quality team. They have an excellent offensive line, a good defense, a good quarterback, and an excellent running back. They need to put it all together, however, in order to be fully effective. I hope to see Week 3 be a gelling of this current Titans squad.