Yesterday’s season opener for the Titans was your typical 60-minute gut punch. At a glance, the 2008 offering won’t be much different from 2007. The defense might be better, and the offense is, once again, a work in progress.
It was a warm 85 degrees as I found my seat in section 143. This section is unusual. While the people around my parents’ seats are pretty solid supporters, the section as a whole is the last to stand up during defensive plays. Our buddy one row behind us finally had to yell “hey folks, this isn’t a preseason game!” in the fourth quarter.
The opening kickoff seemed to be a harbinger of disaster. Rob Bironas, who missed the entire preseason, kicked a line drive to Brian Witherspoon of the Jags. He fumbled the kick. The Titans stopped containing the edge and Witherspoon ran out to midfield. Special teams were bad most of the game. The defense stopped the Jags.
While LenDale White was announced as the starter at RB, Chris Johnson got the first two carries. After a pass interference penalty, Jeff Fisher thought enough was enough and settled for three. Bironas made the 47-yarder without an effort.
During the game, the Jags offense was on the Titan side of the field nine times. Their only touchdown came after Vince Young threw the ball right at a Jag defender. He exceeded his quota by doing this twice on the day.
Vince led the team to a nice half-ending drive. The final play was a throw to Chris Johnson so low that Johnson stumbled and finally dove into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown. I’m saying it now; Johnson will outscore Maurice Jones-Drew in fantasy.
The second half was typical Titans. The offense struggled to get more than one first down and the defense kept making plays. Courtland Finnegan made his second interception, after which Vince threw the ball directly into a defensive lineman’s hands. As they did last year, the defense yielded nothing. David Garrard had no time all day, and his top WR was Matt Jones. The cocaine jokes did not get better from the drunken louts sitting behind me.
With six minutes to go, the Titans got the ball back. Kerry Collins took a couple of practice snaps and the fans thought he was going into the game. There was no such luck. Vince limped off the field after second down. It was third and fifteen. The defense had played well but the lead was down to three and the Jags had one last attack in them. My nephew had consumed two Gatorades, a container of nachos, and a frozen lemonade. Time was running short. The lout behind me predicted a first down.
He was right. It wasn’t Collins making a big throw. He hit Bo Scaife on a screen. A couple of linemen blocked downfield and Scaife took off like Kevin Boss in the Super Bowl. Quite a few fantasy owners are going to take Scaife based on his first 100-yard receiving game. Don’t expect it to happen again this year. The Titans were in field goal range and I thought for sure that Fisher would take it easy. On third down Collins hit Justin Gage on a crossing pattern. Earlier in the game, Gage dropped a third-down throw from Young. I swear that every third pass thrown from Vince Young has metal spikes through the ball.
Gage caught the pass and made it to the one-yard line. LenDale, forgotten in the Chris Johnson hype, busted in for the clinching score. Of course the Jags did get within 7 and had a shot at the Hail Mary. Haynesworth completed the beat-down with the team’s seventh sack.
Unlike the secretive Patriots, the Titans let it be known that Young tore his MCL and is out probably for a month. He may return after the bye. Collins should be OK, but there’s nothing behind him. With more NFL teams keeping two QBs, there’s going to be a rush for talent when a guy gets hurt.
Let’s talk about the uninjured players. When the Titans said that White and Johnson would go 50/50 on carries, they weren’t kidding. Johnson gained 93 yards while White gained 40. Both scored a touchdown.
The receivers are going to be a problem. McCareins was called for pass interference and Gage dropped an easy one. Scaife played the slot a few times instead of Brandon Jones.
Chris Carr was nothing special on kickoffs and punt returns. If he’s middle of the road, that’s an improvement from last year.
The defense is a monster. Haynesworth missed a couple of series and it didn’t matter. Call the defense uber-clutch for stopping the Jags every time. I wonder how the secondary will stack up against better receiving corps.
In conclusion, the Titans are on top of the division for the first time in years. The Colts lost to a fired-up Bears squad. The Texans, as usual, were the Texans. The Jags are going to be good. They just met up with a superior opponent.
All of my fantasy teams got trashed this weekend. I’m even losing to the guy who owns Brady. For week one, real football rules.