Titans 9, Stillers 7 ��. Nov. 5th, 2000 Game #9
Stillers-Titans Post Game Analysis & Grades:
This was pretty much the exact kind of game --- and result -- that I expected. The Titans, coming off the road MNF game, were a bit clunkering and off-kilter, and shot themselves in the foot numerous times with an astronomical 14 penalties. The game was there for the taking, but the Stillers, playing not to lose rather than playing to win, gave away the win late in the 4th quarter when both the offense and defense failed miserably in closing the door on the Bitans. As I said in my pre-game report, this would be "a nip-and-tuck battle that will be fiercely fought all the way to the final gun�the Titans will prevail, 17-16." Even after we got the lead on the Breuner TD, I never once had the confidence that this Stiller team was capable of staving off the Titans. Good teams find ways of winning these kind of games; mediocre teams who are playing "not to lose" find ways of losing them.
1. Stewart's INT, throw into triple coverage, late in the 1st qtr.
2. Joey Porter's INT on out-and-go to Wycheck, which snuffed the Titans series after Poteat's fumbled punt.
3. Near the end of the half, McNair scrambled for 18 on 2nd and 27. The next play, on 3d & 9, McNair hits Sanders on a deep post for a 40-yard gain, setting up a Bitan FG.
4. R. Thomas juggles dump pass, which slowed him enough that he was stopped short of the sticks on 3d & 8 at the Stiller 11, which forced the FG try that Del Greco shanked.
5. 2d & 8 on their own 14 (3d qtr), McNair rolls right, and eludes gimme sack attempts by Scott and Flowers, and then run all the way to his left and gains 16. Rather than a 6-yard sack to force a 3rd and long, McNair gets a huge gainer, and Tenn. marches on with a grinding drive that got them a FG and a 6-0 lead.
6. After a Stiller TO, McNair hits a wide open Mason on a 4th-&-8-for-the-ballgame, for 17 yards. 4 plays later, Del Greco kicks the winning FG.
QB: The Western Union Man had as sorry and pitiful a day as an NFL QB can have: 7-22 for 112 yards; loads of telegraphing; and a host of scattershot passes that were less accurate than Iraqi scud missiles. The INT was a 9-yard curl thrown into triple coverage on 3d and 15. Go figure. And had the Titan DBs not been wearing frying skillets on their hands all day, the Titans could have easily INT'd another 3 passes. Stewart got into this asinine fetish today of throwing nearly every pass like a dart, with juvenilish short-arming of the ball that continually left the well short of the target, as well as too soft and too inaccurate. Many will fawn over Stewart's 6 carries for 31 yards, but on some of those plays, Stewart SHOULD have been looking to throw, but as is his nature, was never once even looking to hit a man while on the move. Contrast this with McNair, who killed the Stillers all day by hitting receivers while moving on rollouts and boots. Stewart also wasted a TO in the 1st quarter, when he tried to call an audible with only about 7 seconds left on the play-clock, and then had to call the TO to avoid the penalty. On the dropped curl pass to Troy, in which he took a ridiculous 9-step drop and had an eternity of time and room in the pocket, he eschewed throwing to an open Plex on the deep post, and instead settled for throwing the 'safe' curl pass to Troy. He was victimized by 2 drops, but overall his play was entirely unacceptable to beat a quality team. D.
RB: Bettis had an ok day, gaining 42 yards on a paltry 13 carries. With the offense stinking and sputtering so badly, Bettis was never able to consistently pound it against the Titan defense. Bettis turned a quick-screen into a key 12-yard gain on the TD scoring march. Hunt had only 1 carry, a hopeless SG draw play on 3rd & 5, which Huntley, perhaps out of sheer disgust and futility, ran somewhat meekly. B.
FB: Kreider continued where he left off in his inaugural NFL game, mashing defenders at the point of attack with good, hard nosed blocking. On one 1st quarter counter, he had the presence of mind to block one man, and then, seeing that this first man was out of the picture, Kreider went after another Titan and got a hat on him, too. He also snared an 8-yard dumpoff. A.
WR: I said the key to this game, was our receiving corps making plays downfield against the Titan secondary. Obviously, this didn't happen. Burress had the lone longish reception from this group, and that was on a routine 6-yard out that the Titan DB jumped on and missed the stab of an INT. Hawkins was actually inserted into a 2-WR set, and then was thrown a bomb that was caught, but OOB. Troy and Ward both dropped passes on curls. This crew would have obviously done more had Stewart made some accurate passes, as several incompletions were off-target tosses to open receivers. Burress had a nice block to spring Breuner on the TD, but on the one deep ball thrown to him he seemed pretty nonchalant with a weak jump-ball attempt that ended up incomplete. B-.
TE: Breuner scored a TD off a basic 9-yard crosser, in which one Titan DB knocked the cover-man down as he went for the ball. Geason had a nice play on a wide-open seam route, which resulted in a 23-yard gain. But Geason sprained his knee on the play and did not return. B.
OL: The line play was decent, but not quite up to par, though they were facing a fine Titan front 7. The pass protection most often gave Stewart time to throw, but there were some leaks that caused harassment and flushing. As expected, Larry Tharpe was ABUSED most of the day by Kearse and Kenny Holmes. The speed and quickness of these two DEs was simply too much for the rotund Tharpe to handle, be it pass plays or run plays. On the play before Breuner's TD, Tharpe got tooled by Kearse, in which Kearse had an easy time knifing inside Tharpe and dropping Bettis for a 1-yard loss. Tharpe also committed a dumbshit false start on the team's final drive. Wayne Candy was also flagged for a hold. Dawson got his hamstring hurt, so Duffy replaced him at center. Given the ability of the Titan front 7, this was an acceptable effort from this crew. B.
DL: The D-line stood up to its end of the bargain with a pretty solid day of stuffing the run. George gained 98 yards on the ground, but on 34 carries, which averages out to a pretty feeble 2.88 yds/carry. Kimo was again a disruptive force, getting penetration and stuffing plays in the backfield. Smith and Henry had solid games. My only beef with this crew, was the late George run up the gut for 12 yards, and the total absence of pass pressure and pocket push in the 4th quarter on both Titan FG drives. B.
LB: The LBs had a pretty damn good day, mostly shutting down the Titan ground game and helping to limit the passing game. Leading the way was Earl Holmes, who played like a demon possessed, getting 9 solos and 6 assists in a game where he seemed to be all over the field. Porter was rarely allowed to rush the QB, instead being used mostly as a coverage man. He did snag one INT, on superb coverage of Wycheck's out-and-go. Porter did get some harassment on the a few of the times he was allowed to rush, and was also outrageously held by Rodney Thomas on the play that Kirk was flagged for defensive holding on Wycheck. Porter was impressive on the pitchout to George from the 4-yard line near the end of the half, when he superbly shed his blocker and forced the play inside. Kirk helped bottle the run, and made a good diving stab at the low throw on 3rd and goal that forced the Titans to settle for a FG near the end of the half. Gildon was credited with 6 solos, but most of these were hang-on's on 6 and 8 yard gainers, and one was when Gildon was the closest Stiller to McNair as the QB ran out of bounds on the 16-yard scramble. On one George counter on the final play of the 1st qtr, Kirkland ended up having to rudely nudge Gildon from behind, because Gildon was standing there, pussy-footing and doing nothing. As it was, Gildon ended up meekly kneeling on the ground, like a monk in prayer, and George easily skirted around him. The Titans continually pounded the ball up Right Tackle, and Gildon offered little more resistance that wet Kleenex. On one 7-yard run up RT by George, the TE literally manhandled Gildon all the way in, about 5 yards from where Jason began the play. And on the key 18-yard scramble by McNair late in the 1st half, Gildon had a perfect angle at McNair, but McNair easily out-raced the duck-footed Gildon en route to the big gainer. Gildon did have a sack, which came off a play in which the RB was assigned to solo-block Jason, and Jason was able to weave by him and get McNair. Vrabel did chip in by drawing a holding call on the big gainer to Wycheck in the 4th quarter. Holmes, Kirk, and Porter: A-. All other starters: C.
DB: The secondary, at times, had a good day, but overall they allowed too many big plays and allowed too much softee cushion. Townsend may very well have had the best game of this group, coming up with one near-INT and batting the 3rd & 8 pass just before the big 4th & 8 late in the game. DeWayne got shaken up in a tackle of George early in the game, and seemed a bit gimpy thereafter. Chad Scott had just about the sorriest day of his entire career. His coverage was spotty, his playmaking on the ball was piss-poor, and his tackling sucked egg. Chad had an EASY sack of McNair deep in Titan territory early in the 2d half, but weakly grasped at McNair's shirt as though he were a fashion designer primping a model before a runway showing. This horrific miss caused an easy sack to bloat into a 16-yard gainer. Chad was also beat on the 40-yard bomb to Sanders at the end of the half, in which he timed his jump very poorly, and then failed to take a poke or jab at the ball as Sanders plucked it. There were other Scott gaffes but too many to mention. Flowers had a couple good hits, but also whiffed on McNair on that big scramble, plus he whiffed on George on the key 12-yard run just before the game-winning FG. Alex had a pretty solid game. C.
Spec Teams: As usual, the special teams were poor. The KO return game produced nothing, with Troy doing more tip-toeing than running. Hawkins was sent in to field the first two punts, and on the 1st punt the gutless twerp unbelievably called a FC despite no Titans within 15 yards of him. Hank dropped the 3rd Titan punt , which resulted in a turnover, though Porter negated it with his INT. Kris' KOs were shallow and poor. Josh had a couple iffy punts, but did some good directional punting and got his best punt of the day off after the O's last drive of the 4th qtr. On the game-ending kickoff, the Stillers, unlike the Music City Miracle, threw the ball across the field --- some 20 yards backwards. Great plan. C-.
Off Coord: Kevin Gaypride had another sorry afternoon in which a raggedy game-plan did nothing to move the ball or keep the Titan offense off the field once in a while. The Titans dominated TOP, with nearly 40 minutes to Pit's 20. Of the offense's 8 full possessions, half were '3 & punts'. You had to know it was gonna be a long day, when, on the 1st series, Gaypride called a SG draw on 3rd and 5, which was easily engulfed by Tenn. for a piddly-assed 1-yard gain. This easily won the Gay Play o' The Day Award. In the early 2d quarter, Gaypride not only inserted Lil' Slopoke Hawkins into the game in a 2-WR set, but also, in a fit of jackassed stupidity, ordered a bomb to the runt, who was blanketed and caught pass OOB. The series at the end of each half were pure vomit. At the end of the 1st half, we took over at our own 29, with 0:45. A QB draw gained 8, and a 5-yrd mask stopped the clock at 0:39 and gave us a 1st down at our 41. From here, we were 26 yards from FG range, with TWO timeouts. What did the assgrinding Gaypride call?? First, a 7-yard curl, which was nearly INT and inc. Then, another QB draw that netted a whopping 4 yards. Then, a 9-yard curl to Shaw. Time ran out, with 2 TO's in our back pocket, before we could get another play off. Absolute vomit. Then, late in the 4th qtr, we got the ball on our own 26, with 4:38 left. A couple 1st downs, and the game is over. Bettis ran for 2 on first down. On 2nd down, after a Tharpe false-start, some sort of short-range pass from the pocket -- with no QB roll or boot --- was called, but Godfrey batted that pass back in Stewart's face. On 3rd down, Gaypride again eschewed putting Stewart on the move, and ordered a straight-drop pass. Stewart, who had been running from the pocket all day, foolishly decided to throw the ball away to stop the clock AGAIN for the Titans. 3 plays and a punt, and all of 49 seconds were chewed up. With the way Stewart was scattershotting passes, and with the need to chew clock, it was gross asininity to have Stewart stand in the pocket and throw the ball at that juncture of the game. D-.
Def Coord: Lewis did a pretty good job of preparation and schemes to limit the Titan offense. Pretty good, but not good enough. Lewis made some egregious blunders that simply cannot be ignored or dismissed. First, just as in the 1st Titan meeting, Lewis became overly enamoured with using his BEST pass rusher in coverage. Yeah, Porter had an INT. Wow-eee! Anyone who saw the end of the thrilling Colt-Bear game, saw Manning being stripped -- as his team was nearing tying-FG range in the final minute-- and the Bears held on for the win. You simply cannot remove your best rusher from rush duties, to the extent Lewis did, and not pay the price. The price was McNair having more than enough time in the pocket to listen to Al Gore pontificate about himself. The second blunder was refusing to shade extra coverage on Mason, who massacred us today. In the first FG drive in the 4th qtr, Mason snared key passes of 14 and 17 yards. On the game-winning march, Mason caught 14, 16, and 17 yard passes to move the Titans into easy FG range. Apparently Lewis needed to see Mason catch 13 more balls, before pulling head from ass and assigning one man to jam Mason at the LOS and follow him, and another man to provide deep help. What's worse, is that with Pickens and Sanders out of the game with injuries, & Thigpen not even dressed, Mason the only dependable WR left for McNair, which screams for double coverage!! The third, and worst boner, was the asinine timeout called just as the Titans were lining up for the key 4th and 8. Lewis's defense had already wasted a TO early in the 3rd quarter. This TO was even worse. On the 3rd down play, Townsend deflected the pass, but a flag was throw on Chad Scott for PI. But the refs huddled for at least 35 seconds, mulling over whether the deflection preceded, & therefore negated, the PI. This time-wasting conference chat by the ref crew SHOULD HAVE given Lewis an eternity to instruct defenders and get the right people and alignment onto the field. The play was correctly rule "no flag" and Tenn. lined up for the do-or-die 4th & 8. The defense then calls a TO, giving the Titan offense a DESPERATELY needed reprieve to go to the sideline and take more time to go over the details. You never, ever, want to give an offense facing a 4th-for-the-game play to have a freebie timeout. We�ll probably never know the reason for this asinine TO, but Lewis should be castrated for such a boner. Then, to add insult to injury, Lewis spends his time during the TO drawing up a depraved scheme that may as well been cartooned by a 4th grader. He rushes 6 men --- and imbeciles like Stan & Guy on Fox Sports will gush, "They blitzed, and they got burnt." But just as in the 1st Titan loss, it wasn't a matter of how many rushers, but WHO. From left to right, we rushed --- in a manner almost exactly as queer and futile as the game-winning play in the 1st loss to Tenn. -- Gildon, Kimo, Simmons, Townsend, and Vrabel. And this was no "overload blitz" where we tried to overload 1 small area so that a defender could race free toward the QB. This was a mano-o-mano blitz, with Simmons hopelessly squaring off against center K. Long and Townsend squaring off against LG Bruce Matthews, with exactly ZERO pocket push, harassment, or vision disruption. Meanwhile, Earl Holmes and Joey Porter were downfield in pass coverage. Just thinking about what a no-brained, hopeless scheme this was, makes me sick. D+.
Head Coach: This was exactly the kind of game that Field Goal Bill loves -- close to the vest, play not to lose football. Yeah, he has an offense that continues to stink and sputter, with no signs of improvement on the horizon. Cowher has no one to blame but himself, because he's seen this abortion the past 2 seasons and has done virtually nothing to rectify it. Cowher also deserves blame for the yo-yo job on Poteat that has quashed any confidence Poteat had as recently as 2 weeks ago, in a job whose #1 requirement is confidence. I don't know about practice, but Poteat hadn't fumbled a punt in ages, yet last week Hawkins was inserted for a majority of the punts. This charade continued against the Titans, in which Hawkins was inserted for the 1st two punts presumably because "they were being fielded inside the 20." Oh, Bullshit !!! This is coaching at its worst ! You don't take the man who is, by far, your most dangerous punt returner, and play games with his confidence with this mickey-mouse flip-flopping. You go with Poteat and Poteat alone, until he botches it in dismal fashion. Cowher has effectively killed what was the #2 punt returner in the AFC with his dim-bulb yo-yo'ing. Worse, Cowher, ever the Hawkins lover, has now elevated that little run to the point of being inserted into the lineup in a 2-WR set, and then thrown a bomb!! The shortest, slowest receiver on the roster is the target of a rare Steeler deep bomb. Unbelievable. This has Bill Cowshit written all over it. Cowher must also shoulder blame (but he won't, of course) for the foolhardy defensive timeouts in the 2d half. D.
You can play not to lose, and beat loser teams like Clev, Balt, Cinci, et al. But when you face the class of your conference, you'd better play to win, or you'll be looking at a long trip home after the game. Playing not to lose never got anyone far at all. It's a gutless, cowardly approach that would make someone like George Patton physically ill. The team is now embarked on its third consecutive "2d half swoon", and it looks pretty ugly. Yeah, sure, it's just one loss. Just like the debacle at Detroit in '98 was just one loss. Or the shameful loss to Cleve last year was just one loss. A loss like this is the kind that can sit in the team's collective craw for a long time. Coupled with this is that inevitably, the locker room will soon be divided -- as has happened the past 2 seasons -- by the playing-its-ass-off Defense, and the malodorous Offense that is incapable of moving the ball out of a phone booth with any sort of regularity or cohesion. The schedulemakers give us 3 weeks of foes who are hardly worldbeaters -- Philly and Jax at home, and on the road at Cinci. But given the sloth of this offense and the wear-and-tear on the defense, this will be far from a cupcake stretch for the teetering Stillers.
The Still Mill