Eight Down, Eight to Go: Tennessee Titans Midseason Report

Dave StanleyCorrespondent INovember 11, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 08:  Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans hands off the ball during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 8, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Of all the things that could be said of the Tennessee Titans' enigma of a season thus far, this much is true: they sure keep things interesting.  

After a disastrous, jaw-dropping 0-6 start, they've reeled off two wins in a row, and, perplexingly enough, have looked pretty good doing it.

Remember, this is the same team that, until three weeks ago, couldn't hold on to passes, couldn't tackle, and couldn't find their will to win.  They all but rolled over during the Boston Massacre; a 59-0 drubbing at the hand of the New England Patriots.

Granted, they haven't necessarily been dominating.  But they're doing the small things and executing the fundementals that they're supposed to; things that are historically a hallmark of this franchise in the Jeff Fisher era.  

It almost makes a fan want to harbor a shred of (possibly) false hope.  With each win, their fledgling confidence snowballs and grows.  Can they simply do what they did the past two weeks for a mere eight more games and shock the world?  

For obvious reasons, it's way too early to tell.  There is too much that can, could, and would need to happen.  

However, as per their usual when they start slow, they're getting hot at the most intriguing of times.  

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Early season favorites are beginning to display flashes of vulnerability (see: New York Giants, Denver Broncos).  

Borderline teams that initially flirted with competitiveness are now erring on the side of mediocrity (see: Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers).

Yet here the Titans are, beginning to quietly rack up the wins.  Where will it all eventually lead?  Again, it's anybody's guess.  

But here's a look at how Tennessee's made the grade (or not) thus far.

Offense: B-

So far, running back Chris Johnson has been the most consistent producer.  The fact that he's done so well while earning his paychecks on a team that nearly always plays from behind makes it all the more remarkable.   

As most folks know, it's the passing game that has been the Achilles Heel of the Titans this year.  Incompletions, dropped balls, and interceptions have plagued them since week one.  

The hardest part for players and fans alike is that so many of those passes were, indeed, catchable.  Did the team roll over on Kerry Collins?  Or was it merely a mental block, spawned by the lack of confidence that increased with each mounting loss?  

At any rate, since the insertion of the embattled Vince Young at quarterback, those mistakes are now few and far between.  However it's working, it's working; psychology be damned.  

Young and his offensive cohorts aren't necessarily dazzling anybody, Johnson notwithstanding.  They're simply playing the lost (until now) art of Titans football: smart, mistake-free passing preceded with a prolific and powerful running game.  

Given his loose-cannon, inconsistent career thus far, Young still has a ways to go in terms of proving his long-term worth and vindicating his critics.  

But he's off to a good start.

Defense: C-

The knee-jerk reaction was to give them a resounding "F" in this category, given their string of blowouts around the first quarter mark of the season.  

However, in their first few games, they kept things relatively respectable.  And in their two victories, they were darn near good.  Almost.   

True, no one's going to compare them to the 2000 Baltimore Ravens any time soon.  But they've been holding their own with the "bend, don't break" motif as of late.  

Decent enough, yes.  But throw in the fact that a few point-producing turnovers have been procured, and there's reason for excitement in the Titans community, from the locker room to the water cooler.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan looked like the Pro Bowler he is this past Sunday with his interception and subsequent touchdown run.  The sight of linebacker Keith Bulluck following him, hands raised, to the end zone is something that hasn't been seen in a while.  

The swagger is beginning to return.  On a team that desperately needed confidence, this was the unit that needed it the most.

Yes, they will have their fair share of bad days where they yield the big play.  But so long as they keep up their new-found ability to recover from those snafus and tighten up when it matters the most, then the Titans will always have a shot.  

Special Teams: C+

Sometimes, no news is good news.  Especially when considering the early season woes in this unit.  

While there are no electrifying returners of the Devin Hester/Percy Harvin variety on this club, at least there are no more senseless, costly turnovers.  

In other words, they're no longer a liability.  As the season progresses, however, the odds are that they will at one point or another be asked to win a game for the team, but so far, being solid has sufficed. 

Coaching: B

For the most part, it's not what you let happen to your team, but how you get them to recover from it.  

As Tennessee slipped further and further into chaos with each loss, the company line was "if anyone can fix it, it's coach Jeff Fisher."  

Yet the more they lost, the more that felt like a hollow, pointless axiom that was said more out of comfort than truth.  

After the "Peytongate" incident at a charity event followed the worst loss in franchise history, many felt that the team had hit rock bottom.  

Perhaps they did, given that at that point, there's nowhere to go but up.  

However they're doing it, Fisher and his staff have got the team playing with passion again.  Heck, they're coaching with passion again.  

The sight of Fisher pumping his fist after clenching victory last week reminded us all that there is plenty of fight left, across the board.  

Overall: C

Like the defense, this is a category that would have merited an obvious "F" a few short weeks back. 

In fact, some may question the decision to move the Titans from an "F" to a "C" based on just two victories.

But it's not just the modest winning streak that raises eyebrows; it's the way that they've done it.  

They've faced quality teams.

They've come from behind.

They've made silly mistakes...and kept their composure.  

The million-dollar question is "why did it take six straight losses for them to wake up?"

Who knows.  But, as is usually the case with Tennessee, they seem to play better with lower expectations.  

Perhaps the Super Bowl predictions made them a bit uncomfortable.  

Perhaps they're right where they want to be.  

Well, ok, probably not right where they want to be.  

But as the second half of the season commences this Sunday, they're on the right track.