Stillers 34, Titans 7 ���.Oct. 29th, 2001 ����Game #6
Stillers-Titans Postgame Analysis and Grades
Stillers-Titans. A colossal matchup that figured to be nip-and-tuck, just as the 2 games were last year between these 2 long-time foes. Instead, the Stillers brought out the whupping stick and issued an old fashioned can of whip ass to the frazzled Titans, 34-7, in a game that was even more lopsided than the final score indicates. I probably don't need to go too far in-depth, because just about everywhere you looked, the Stillers were physically taking this game to the Titans.
Big Plays: (There's simply more than I care to take the time/space to enumerate)
1. Wycheck hauls in 3rd-down TD pass in back of EZ, giving Tenn. some temporary life on first play of the 2nd quarter.
2. Plex makes nice adjustment and hauls in 33-yarder on deep go route at 12:00 of the 2nd qtr.
3. Brent snares 1-handed INT, giving the Stillers the ball at the Tenn. 36, leading to�
4. � Stew hits Shaw on deep out on 3rd & 13 for 19 yards, setting up�.
5. � Stew rolls right and while under duress hits Ward for a 3-yard TD pass.
6. Nedney misses 48-yard FG off upright, giving the Stillers golden field position, which they converted into a late 1st half FG. Instead of possibly going into the locker room with a 14-10 score, the Stillers led 17-7 and never looked back.
7. Kris sets up a late 2Q FG with a courageous run on a fake FG, although, despite ABC having 23 cameras inside the stadium, it appeared Kris' foot went OOB before he was able to fully reach the ball out to the marker.
8. Plex flicks and tips deep ball away from Rolle, turning a sure-INT into a 44-yard gain. Bus scored on the next play to pound the nail into the coffin.
9. While lined up at QB, Ward races 35-yard after a direct-SG snap, showing good moves and effort. This led to a Kris FG.
10. On the ensuing KO, Mike Logan forces a fumble on kickoff coverage, setting up the final Stiller TD.
QB: Stewart finally eclipsed the lofty 200-yard plateau, completing 13-22 for 232 yards. But numbers don't show the whole story. Stewart showed composure, poise, pocket presence, and decisiveness, all of which were missing the past 3 seasons. There were a number of good plays/throws, which are worthy enough to mention here:
- Stew hits Breuner with nice touch and accuracy on the game's first drive, gaining 21 yards.
- On 3rd & 7 early in the 2Q, Stew finally -- after 1-1/2 seasons of futility of hooking up with Plex -- gets some air, loft, and distance on a deep pass to Plex, who was able to adjust and haul it in for a 33-yard gain.
- On a 3rd and 13 with the game tied at 7, Stew stands in under pressure and hits Shaw with a perfect pass on a deep out, just over Rolle's hands.
- The next play, Stew rolls right, shrugs off Titan LB R. Godfrey, and while off-balance fires a strike to Ward for the TD. This is precisely the kind of play that Stewart has been all too eager and willing to take sacks on, rather than taking a chance to fire the ball to an open receiver or at least getting rid of the ball to avoid the sack.
- On 3rd & 9 in the 4Q, Stew rifles a perfectly thrown pass to Plex on a deep crosser, gaining 25 yards.
All of these aforementioned plays were good, sound plays by Stewart that showed some previously-unforeseen risk, decisiveness, and headiness by the formerly-timid QB. Of course, this wasn't a flawless performance by Stew. He threw a hideous overthrow on a seamer to Troy in the game's 2nd series, which could have been INT'd by a better secondary. The 44-yard pass to Burress was pitifully underthrown, and only the fact that Rolle was hobbled with injury, and Plex's good break-up, turned this from a sure-INT to a long gain. And there was the out pass to Bettis, which was a bit behind the Doughboy and ended up popping into the hands of G. Favors, who luckily landed OOB. But, all in all, a sterling performance by Stewart and one that brings hope to this previously-sputtering passing offense. Maddox played in mop-up and completed his only pass with a superbly-thrown deep slant to Troy for 57 yards. A.
RB: Bettis faced an aggressive Titan defense that was bound and determined to bottle up Bus and the ground game. For the most part, Tenn. did just that, limiting The Doughboy to 62 yards on 19 rushes. But Tenn. was unable to make a big stop on Bettis near the goal line, allowing him to rumble for 2 TDs. In a fit of hilarity, Bettis steamrolled rookie DB Andre Dyson so badly en-route to his 8-yard TD run, that I'm surprised receiver Kevin Dyson didn't charge onto the field trying to protect his helpless little brother. Bettis did allow the slightly-behind pass to bounce off his shoulder pads, nearly resulting in a crippling INT that would have erased the late FG just before halftime. Amoz chipped in with a quick-footed 17-yard scamper that clearly caught the Titan defense off guard. Fu chipped in a few carries in garbage time. A.
FB: Jon Witman did most of the work at FB, although Kreider and Fu saw some limited action. Witman was spotty all night long, having some trouble lunging -- and whiffing -- at some Titan defenders. Witman also had some troubles with the Titan run-blitz. Fu paved the way for Amoz's 17-yard run. Kreider showed great determination and smarts in squirming and lunging out of his own end zone to avoid a late safety. B-.
WR: I wasn't sure if I'd ever write this sentence�.Plex Burress led the way with a breakout game of 6 grabs for 151 yards. On 3 occasions, Plex went up for, and hauled in, deep lobs down the s-line. The one late in the 3Q stunned me, because Burress actually reached up and plucked the ball with his hands, not his body. Plex also dove and made a nice grab on a short in-route late in the 2nd qtr. To his discredit, on the very next play, Plex lazily and carelessly came down with an out-pass near the sideline, and foolishly allowed his right foot to land out of bounds. But, in all, this was exactly the kind of game we've been expecting from Plex since the start of the '00 season. Ward chipped in with 2 grabs, one on a crosser in which he was leveled by the safety, and the other on the clutch 3-yard TD grab. Ward also dropped 2 tough, but catchable, chances in the first half. Ward had a splendid 36-yard run off a shot-gun snap while lined up at QB, and Ward also had the presence to avoid a sloppy INT off a reverse play that was designed to have Ward throw back to Stew or to Burress in the EZ. Shaw had the clutch 19-yard gain to set up the 2nd TD. Troy allowed a high pass to glance off his fingertips, but came back late in the game with a nice grab -- all hands and fingers -- on the deep slant from Maddox, and then raced downfield for a 57-yard gain. A-.
TE: Breuner had a near-career game, hauling in 3 grabs for 36 yards. The first catch of 21 yards was fortuitous for Breuner, in that he nearly allowed a perfectly thrown ball to slip thru his fingers. Tuman also allowed a tough, high, but catchable chance in the EZ to skip off his fingers. The blocking was pretty solid all night long. B+.
OL: Although the Titan run blitzing presented some problems, this was a near-dominating effort by the O-line. Tennessee had 3 sacks, but one was really a coverage sack, another was a backside blitz off a reverse bootleg, and the third was actually a screen play that got smelled and blown up by the Titan defense, so Stew ran the ball OOB for a 4-yard loss. For the most part, Stew had excellent time, and had good vision from the solid pocket. The blocking near the goal line -- where the money is made in the NFL -- was outstanding. Tylski did get thoroughly abused late in the 2Q, causing Stew to rush a hasty, off-target pass to Breuner in the end zone. Gandy and Smith held off Kearse and Carter, so much so that the two highly-reputed DEs did next to nothing the entire game. A+.
DL: This was a stout effort by the entire DL. Aaron Smith continues to impress me, getting good pocket push with his bull rush, as well as knifing thru some blocks. Kimo disrupted a couple of plays. Bailey held down the fort off-tackle on a few runs. Hampton and Clancy mostly did a solid job of clogging the middle, although there were a few cutback runs where Tenn. backs had plenty of room up the gut. Clancy got a rare INT off a deflection by Scott. A.
LB: Rookie KenBell got to strut his stuff in front of a national TD audience, and he made the most of his prime time exposure with yet another monster game. Bell had 8 solos, including a couple of hard stuffs on Eddie George and a nice sack in which he relentlessly crashed thru the middle of the Titan O-line. Yes, Bell was "beat" by the tiniesst of margins on a deep seam & great grab by Wycheck (Bell actually got a paw on the ball), as well as the tremendous TD grab at the back of the EZ by Wycheck. But neither play was flawed or gimpy by Bell; rather, Wycheck -- the best all-around TE on the field (stop crying, Breuner fans) -- made outstanding plays to haul in those passes. Holmes helped stuff the run with 7 solos and an assist. Porter chipped in with 4 solos, including a nice slash-in and drop for a loss on a Titan sweep. Jason Gildon had his typically quiet 2-tackle effort, though he did get a fingernail strip of George on a fumble, as well as a batted pass while getting bullied at the LOS, and also a 4th qtr. fingernail Dong Sack. A.
DB: This was a good coverage effort from the entire secondary. McNair completed some key passes, but on virtually every one of those, McNair threaded the needle with near-perfect throws. Brent had a spectacular 1-handed INT, and Flowers finished off that play by literally crushing Wycheck in a perfectly legal, "just don't forget about me" hit. DeWayne provided blanket coverage, so much so that one out-pass ended up hitting DeWayne in the numbers�on the back of his jersey. Townsend also chipped in on the nickel. Chad was whistled for 2 fairly meaningless flags while in coverage on plays that I can live with 9 times out of 10. A.
Spec teams: Mostly good, some bad. Kris punched thru 3 FGs, but also weakly missed a 48-yard midway thru the 1Q. Kris' KO's, after being decent most of the year thus far, were mostly unacceptably short, allowing Tenn. to get good field position. The coverage teams, led by Fiala, Jones, Haggans, Hank, and Logan, did a pretty solid job. And Logan forced a key fumble on the one KO return. Hank had 2 sterling returns, though one was called back on a ticky-tack flag on Chad Scott. I quickly reviewed the tape, and this was a real cheezy flag thrown by the most penalty-calling ref crew in the entire NFL. Josh's punting was adequate. The fake FG was a gutty playcall that may have been a tad bit short of the 1st-down marker, but the absence of any conclusive camera angles allowed the initial spot to stand. The missed FG and the short KOs prevent me from issuing an "A" here. A-.
OC: Mularkey did a sound job of anticipating the Titan run-blitzing and doing his best to try to keep Tenn. off-balance with a variety of formations and playcalls. The go-routes against an injury-ravaged secondary were playcalls that simply HAD to be tried, and I was pleased that this offense finally removed some of the Dink & Dump from its gameplan. I wasn't overly pleased with the bastardized sequence after the Stillers got a 1st down at the Tenn. 30 early in the 2Q. First Stew had to waste a TO. Then, after a sack gave us 2nd & 19, Mularkey ran the ever-predictable screen pass, which was sniffed and swarmed by the Titan defense, forcing Stew to keep OOB for a 4-yard sack. But, on the plus side, using Ward on 2 different "trick" plays, as well as getting Plex involved in the downfield passing game and getting Stew on the move near the GL, are all positives that can be used to build upon in future weeks. This might very well have been the crispest and best this Stiller offense has looked (against a real football team, not the expansion Browns) since their MNF whipping of Green Bay way back in 1998. A.
DC: Tim Lewis did a good job of preparing his team for the Titan offense. Sure, Lewis lucked out with the Eddie George injury, but the defense limited the cutback lanes and stuffed George and Hicks with authority. The D also prevented Wycheck from getting a load of easy receptions, and the Titan WRs were held in-check until some garbage-time yardage late in the game. A.
HC: Cowher, as is his norm, had his troops fired up and ready for this prime-time tilt. The focus, intensity, and determination were evident right from the opening series. And while the Titans committed some boneheaded penalties, the Stillers had very few flags, all of which were fairly harmless. Probably the most impressive thing about Cowher is that he -- after the last 3 years of totally risk-averse, play-not-to-lose, butt-puckered-tightly-shut kind of schemes and playcalls -- is finally coaching like he did prior to 1998, when he was willing to take some risks and go for the gusto and the "W". A.
Synopsis: Although still far too early to claim the division crown, Stiller fans can still revel and bask in the glory of this prime-time ass-whipping of the Bitans, and proudly thump their chests for the next 5 days as we gear up for the hated Ravens. Tennessee came into this game desperate but proud, and they leave the Steel City bloodied, battered, and downtrodden after this rousing Stiller victory. This win was about as close as you can come to total domination in the NFL, and every man on the roster should be proud of this collective team effort. Next up -- the Ravens, which will be the truest litmus test of exactly how playoff-worthy this offense is. Bring on the RatBirds!!