Off for More Than a Week, Tennessee Titans Have Time To Heal and Tweak

Bryan Hollister@too_old_4stupidAnalyst ISeptember 13, 2009

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 10:  Safety Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers gets a penalty for holding the face mask of tight end Bo Scaife #80 of the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter of the NFL season opener at Heinz Field on September 10, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Nashville, Tenn—13-10 should now become a score the Titans need to avoid, at least against AFC North teams.

13-10 was the last score the Titans saw before being unceremoniously bumped from the playoffs by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2008 season.

13-10 is the score that saw the Titans upended in overtime by the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL season opener last Thursday night. 

In fact, in their last five losses, the number 13 factored into the score in four of them.

So maybe it's just that number.

Silliness aside, playing their opener on Thursday gives the Titans a few extra days to consider what happened in Pittsburgh. They played well enough defensively, but were unable to shut down both the run and the pass. Offensively they didn't seem up to full speed; Collins had a 200+ yard passing game, but the end zone eluded them all night.

Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside were relatively ineffective against arguably the top defense in the league.

Bo Scaife suffered a minor knee injury that may keep him out of the lineup next week.

All in all, the Titans start to the season was nothing to crow about.

There were signs of hope, however. The absence of Albert Haynesworth in the middle of the line didn't appear to affect their ability to stuff the run.

Jevon Kearse wasn't as active as he would have liked, but he did get loose for a devestating sack on Ben Roethlisberger in the second half.

He's got a long way to go if he wants to make an impact. One tackle does not a freak make.

Jason Jones, on the other hand, seems intent on proving that his 3.5 sack effort against the Steelers last year was no fluke; he was able to break through for one of the four sacks of Big Ben.

The Titans secondary demonstrated that they were capable defenders, which was a good thing since that is the game their front four dictated. The majority of the tackles made by the Titans were made by the corners and safeties.

If forcing the ball into opposing quarterbacks hands is the plan, then open field tackling drills had best be a major component of practice each week.

One area where Haynesworth was missed was in pass rushing; his ability to almost single-handedly collapse the pocket was sorely missed Thursday. Against capable quarterbacks like Roethlisberger, Manning, and the like, Tennessee will be well down the list in pass defense unless they figure out how to get that push.

So what does it all mean? Are the Titans off step, or do they just need a tweak here and there to set things right?

Remember, they were playing the Super Bowl Champion Steelers IN PITTSBURGH.

Tennessee was the only team to gain more than 300 total offensive yards agains them in the 2008 regular season; this is not a run of the mill defense—it is top tier, and will continue to be well into the foreseeable future. So the fact the Tennessee wasn't able to score much is not a huge surprise.

Tennessee, if you will remember, fought all year for top honors on defense. They performed up to standard in game one, limiting the Steelers to 13 points—one touchdown and two field goals for the slow calculators out there—so defensively they are in good shape.

The only dark spot is the 363 yards passing they gave up. Again, this is Ben Roethlisberger we are talking about. Detractors aside, he continues to show he is more than just a big oaf who can throw the ball a long way. He's shifty, he's hard to take down, and he has the ability to pick a defense apart.

Yeah, he runs around a lot. That's part of what allows him to pick defenses apart, because he keeps the play going long after it should have been over.

All in all, the Titans don't seem to be too far off where they need to be. They are quite a ways from peaking, mind you, but they don't need all that much adjusting to ensure that they will be contenders come season's end.

Just stay away from the number 13.


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