Titans 23, Stiller 20 ��. Sep. 24, 2000 Game #3
Stillers-Titans Post Game Analysis & Grades:
This game pretty much unfolded exactly the way I expected it to. Tennessee was legitimately lax, and the Stillers played their best game, from all 3 phases of football, of the season. However, just as my pregame outlook advised, "the typical breakdowns on defense, along with the Dink & Dump, will allow the Titans to escape with a hard-fought 20-16 victory". Like last week, this team was very much in the game until the bitter end, but -- just like last week -- played turtle and ultimately paid the price. This is yet another victory that cannot sit well with the players, most of whom gave a good effort in a loss in which they owned a 3-1 turnover differential.
1. 1st Titan series, 3rd and 9 -- Neil is given all day, and finally decides to throw a deep post to Pickens, who beats DeWayne and then adds some monster RAC yardage for a 67-yard gainer.
2. Trailing 10-3, with a 3rd and 2 on the Tenn. 11, the Stillers run a draw play against a stunned Titan defense. Eddie Robinson stuffs Fu for a 1-yard loss, and the Stillers settle for the Cowher favorite, the field goal.
3. Chad makes his 2nd INT near the goal line, snuffing a Titan drive deep in Stiller territory.
4. Shaw fumbles away the ball on the Titan 8 after long gainer, with only 20 seconds left in the 1st half.
5. Cold backup McNair comes in after O'Donnell's injury, on 3rd and 11, and calmly hits Sanders on a deep curl for a clutch 22-yard gainer.
6. McNair hits wide open backup TE Kimmey for winning TD.
7. Stewart wastes a down on spike to stop the clock, after 16-yard scramble, on game's final drive.
QB: Graham had an ok day, completing 18-33 for 254 yards and no INTs, but no TDs. At some point in time, Graham needs to produce TD passes, which is not entirely his fault. His passing, especially in the 1st half, was spotty, with loads of off-target incompletes and completions where RAC yardage was minimized due to off-balance grabs by the WRs. Graham was victimized by some drops by the WRs. Stewart went a typical 1-4 for 6 yards, though 1 pass was a throwaway to avoid a sack, and another was a spike. B.
RB: Bettis picked up from last week, and ran hard for a pretty solid 77 yards on 19 rushes. Almost exclusively, Bettis gained yardage running between the tackles and either lost yardage or gained nothing on futile toss sweeps and wide running plays. Bus and Fu also had 3 catches a piece. Fu ran with good authority on his 4 carries. A.
FB: Witman was often neutralized on lead blocks, but once in a while provided some room for Bettis. Surprisingly, Witman, who is typically a focal point of the Stiller passing "attack", did not have a ball thrown his way all day. B-.
WR: Another spotty effort from this corps. Ward led the way with 5 grabs, and Troy came back from injury with a very solid 50 yards of receiving on just 3 catches. Shaw continued his gaudy YPC average, snaring 2 balls for 28 yards. However, his disastrous fumble near the end of the 1st half, which wiped out at least 3 points (then again, we'd have played turtle, so it's unlikely we�d have scored more than 3). The gripe with Shaw on this play, is that as he ran down the field, he saw a DB sitting and waiting to tackle him around the 10-yard line. Rather than angle toward the sideline to stop the clock, Shaw foolishly veered slightly toward the inside, and then was hit and coughed up the ball. Going toward the sideline most likely eliminates the fumble, and also gets out of bounds to stop the clock. Burress caught only 1 pass, a short hitch that he adroitly turned into a 17-yard gain. But he dropped 3 other tough passes, none of which hit hm in the numbers, but all of which appeared catchable. One was a low pass on an early curl; one was a fade in the EZ where Plex appeared to wrongly cut to the inside, and one was a 4th quarter deep hitch than skipped off his hands on a high throw. Plex also committed a bonehead false start on the game's 1st series, turning a 3rd and 4 into a 3rd and 9. Ward was robbed of a TD reception, when the imbecilic reffing crew went to the instant replay and claimed that "the only view from midfield proved inconclusive" despite that, and 1 other angle, that conclusively showed the ball EASILY crossed the plane before his knees ever touched the ground. C+.
TE: Breuner caught the obligatory 4-yard pass. 3rd stringer Geason had a 36-yard gain on a wide open flag route. The blocking was pretty solid. A-.
OL: The line gave Graham good enough time to throw, for the entire game. The only exception came late in the 1st half, when guard Alen Faneca did a Lookout Block on DT Joe Salavea. Faneca basically turned aside when the ball was snapped, and yelled back to Graham, "Lookout!!" Salavea, who never expected to get to the QB so cleanly and so quickly, has Faneca to thank for his injured neck. The run blocking was fairly solid, opening up some nice creases for Bettis between the tackles. Smith got hurt in the 1st half, but was ably replaced by Pourdanesh (whose main boner was one false start), one of Cowher's most disliked players. Facing a pretty solid front 7, this was an acceptable performance by this crew, especially when you consider they stopped Kearse's long sack-per-game streak. A.
DL: The line started off slow and slackly, as they are wont to do, but came on and stuffed Eddie George, limiting him to a meager 74 yards on 27 carries. Kimo led the way, continually knifing off blocks to disrupt running lanes. Henry and Sullie chipped in with good efforts. This has to be the best effort of the year thus far from the DL. A.
LB: The LB crew turned in a fairly solid effort today, combining with the DL to help bottle George. The pass pressure was pretty miniscule, getting almost no harassment whatsoever except for 1 sack by Gildon. Holmes and Kirk overpursued on the George 20-yard TD run, though it appeared that Holmes was being held as he was moving laterally to corral George. Gildon, although unblocked most of the game, at least made the Titans pay for it, turning in a rare solid effort by continually bolting down the line to help wrap George, rather than doing his patented pitter-patter. Porter was the 1 LB conspicuously absent, as he chipped in only 2 assists and had no impact at all. Gildon may have been the guilty culprit on the blown coverage of Kimmey's game-winning TD. B.
DB: The secondary played well enough to snare 3 INTs, but poorly enough to give up more big plays on 3rd and long. Along with the 3rd and 9 67-yarder to Pickens, and the late 3d & 11 to Sanders, there was a 3rd and 8 to Wycheck for 24 yards; a 3rd and 9 WR screen to Sanders for 11 yards; a 3rd and 14 to Sanders that netted 13 yards; and a 3rd and 13 early in the 3rd quarter that gained 23 yards. Flowers contributed to this mayhem, whiffing on the 23 yard gainer in the 3rd quarter and tip-toeing on a 3rd and seven 3d qtr. dumpoff to Mason, in which the Flowers hesitation allowed Mason to gain the 1st down yardage. Lee did light up TE Kimmey nicely on the 1 seam route. DeWayne took his annual abuse from Carl Dickens, getting abused on both deep receptions by Dickens. DeWayne did have a nice 1-handed INT. Chad snared 2 INTs, and provided pretty good coverage. The 1 gripe with Chad, was his tentative play on the George fumble. Rather than diving on the loose ball, Chad stood there and WAITED, while George alertly dove onto the carpet and recovered his own fumble. Townsend was literally screwed on the off-setting PI penalty on the lob to Pigpen down the sideline. Townsend had perfect, textbook position on the play, and in no way, shape or form should he have been flagged for PI. Shields enraged me early on, when Wycheck caught the seam route for the 24-yard gain. Shields was visibly in a position WAITING to catch the ball about waste high, rather than in a position, as a safety with his size should be in, to devastate Wycheck with a crushing hit. It also appeared that Shields botched the coverage on the final TD to Kimmey, though it might've been Gildon's man. C-.
Spec Teams: Aside from 1 long KO return brought back to the Pgh. 40 after the Stewart TD, and the 23-yard punt return on the 1st play of the 2nd quarter, the coverage teams were pretty good. Even Amos Zeroue, who typically isn't even allowed to dress, made a good open field tackle on one return and forced a man to run OOB on another. Ward had a couple solid KO returns, and even chipped in with a solo on kickoff coverage. The sore spot for the ST was the placekicking. Kris' kickoffs, as they have all season, blew chow. His 5 kickoffs went to the following yard-lines in Tenn. territory: 15, 8, 9, 13, and the final one a hideous squibber. This is unacceptable for an NFL kicker, at his young age, to be kicking off so shallowly. To add salt to the wound, the game-tying 5-yard FG came up lamely short of the crossbar, which tells me that Browns leg has DIGRESSED since last season, which I find appalling. D+.
Off Coord: This says a lot: despite golden field position in the 1st half, with starting positions of their own 44, Tenn. 49, and Tenn. 40, Kevin Gaypride's vaunted Dink & Dump™ attack produced a lousy 6 points. This says more: On the series that began at the Tenn. 49, on a 3rd and 3 at the Titan 11, 3 WRs lined up to the left of the formation, in a bunched formation, presumably to confuse the Titans. At the snap, two of the WRs, to include Shaw, ran smack dab into each other, killing the play and causing Graham to take the sack. The offense threw downfield to Plex only once, and he was open, but a PI flag should have been thrown on the inc. pass. But Gaypride never took another deep stab with Plex, and only threw deep 1 other play to Ward, which was a waste, as no pump fake or play-fake was used and the DB easily blanketed the slowfooted Ward. Another statement on Gaypride: facing a 3rd & 10 on our own 4 in the 3rd qtr, Gaypride orders a WR Screen, one of his all-time favorites, which was nearly picked off for an easy Titan TD. Gaypride also insisted on trying to run Bettis wide, which is as futile as swimming the Atlantic Ocean with an anchor tied to your back. Lest we forget, there was that clever Fu draw play, on 3d & 2 from the Titan 11, that allowed us to settle for the FG in the 2nd qtr. And how about that illegal substitution -- with 12 men in the huddle -- midway thru the 4th, which helped blow up a decent drive?? And, last but not least, there was the late 4th quarter fiasco -- the 3rd one in 3 games -- that saw the offense bog down and settle for the 50-yard FG, rather than trying to move the ball with alacrity and authority. On 1st down at our 46 on that late fateful drive, Stewart scrambles right and throws the ball away, narrowly avoiding the sack and the grounding penalty. As the offense prepares to line up, the refs stop the clock and wander to the hood to review the play for grounding. This took at least 2 minutes, which was a FREEBIE timeout for the staff to gather the offense and call 2 plays -- NOT JUST ONE. Of course, if the 1st play is a clock-stopper, the 2nd play can be scrapped, depending on what the 1st play gained. But, nooo. Stewart scrambles for 16 yards & a first down, and then spikes the ball. A piss-ant curl to Shaw nets 6 yards, and the team's final TO is taken. Coming off the TO, another piss-ant little pass is nearly INT'd by Godfrey, and the team has to settle for the Cowher favorite, a FG try, from 50 yards out. Unacceptable for a professional team to handle its offense so unprofessionally, for the 2nd week in a row. D.
Def Coord: Tim Lewis rolled out a couple new wrinkles today. For starters, twice he ran a TWO-MAN rush, which is virtually unheard of throughout the NFL. Then, on the game-winning TD, Lewis had Lee Flowers blitz, from the 11 yard line. Problem was, the LOS was the 19, so this meant Flowers had to dash 8 yards just to get to the line, and another 5 or 6 to get to McNair. Hey, greaaatt scheme, Timmy!! The overall softie pass pressure, the failure to get Porter more involved, and the continual botched coverages and easy yardage on 3rd and longs, must all be at least partially blamed on Lewis, who is rapidly moving higher and higher on my shit list. C-.
Head Coach: Teams usually convey and portray the persona of their head coach. So it is with the Stillers, who are rapidly assimilating Cowher's "Play not to lose" & "let's play turtle" mantras in superb fashion. Cowher claims in his press conferences that he's "playing to win", but teams playing to win don't play turtle in enemy territory in front of their home fans, with golden field position in most of the 1st half. It's a sad, sickly sate of affairs when a team with this much golden field position, does not throw a pass past the plane of the goal line, until the lob to Plex from the Titan 18 late in the 3rd quarter. The only shots you make are the ones you take, but under the Field Goal Bill regime, he plays not to lose and never wants to take any shots. Cowhead himself babbled ad nauseum in his press conference, about how this team needed to learn and build from the Cleveland Goal Line II Fiasco. So what do they do?? While the refs are under the hood, slowly and ploddingly reviewing the possible grounding call, Cowshit and Gaypride are sitting on their asses, presumably chatting about whether or not they are going to go dancing together at some underground club following the game. Stewart then gains 16 yards and wastes a severely critical down with the spike�.and this is LEARNING ??? Learning, my ass. This is nothing but gross ineptitude, gross incompetence, and gross dereliction of coaching duties. This debacle should never be forgotten when it comes time to run Cowher and Gaypride out of town when the season ends, if not sooner. And the defense makes yet another grouping of defensive breakdowns to overshadow an otherwise solid effort�.at what point in time is this staff, and Cowher, who is supposed to be a defensive whiz, going to shoulder responsibility for failing to adequately prepare its players? F.
There were some adequate positives to emerge from this game. The OL played pretty well. Troy came back, and combined with Ward, Shaw, and Burress, gives the offense a pretty solid corps of receivers. The defense bottled up the best RB they've faced this season, and the D finally got some turnovers. But, all this means next to nothing when you have a coaching staff unwilling to make adjustments to build upon the positives and minimize the warts. Defensive backs botching assignments. Too many men in the huddle. Receivers running into each other off the line of scrimmage. It's time to cull the wheat from the chaff with this team, and start simplifying some things so that players can go out and play without the elaborate trigonometry this staff requires from every player during every snap of the ball. The season is already over, so it's high time, unlike last year, to start assessing players, grooming youngsters, and seeing who can do what. It's also time to throw conservatism out the window, and start game-planning and making decisions on both sides of the ball with some testosterone, and scrapping the Cowher, estrogen-induced ideologies that are plaguing this entire team. The team has a stern test next week at Jax, and is easily looking at an embarrassing 0-4 start.
The Still Mill