Grinding Out Results
Firstly, I have to admit something: I did not actually watch the Titans’ game live this week. I was at Pie & Ale in Manchester with the GnG gang, watching the New England Patriots remind the world why they are so very much despised by every other team. Instead I tracked the live down and distance box score on NFL.com which I personally feel is a more pure and dramatic way to follow American football anyway – it reminds me of my youth, when Saturday afternoons consisted of watching an old John Wayne movie whilst the vidiprinter would churn out two football scores at a time at the bottom of the screen; it was dramatic because you had no idea of context, just the raw scores.
(During my worst nightmares, that vidiprinter-printing noise still haunts me… – Ed)
The same exists for NFL nowadays. I get the fascination with Red Zone. I understand wanting to know everything moment of action from every game. But it will never replace the drama of refreshing your phone every 40 or so seconds to see whether you made that 3rd and 8 from the 42 yard line.
With that in mind, let us discuss this game…
This was tough to follow. The first half was a real grind; this was hard nose smash mouth football at its best. Defense on both sides was on top, but it was not a turnover frenzy (sorry Cleveland). This was just good old, hand-in-the-mud, football; and I love it. I loved watching Eddie George grind opponents into submission. I marveled at the Thunder and Lightning pairing of LenDale White and CJ2K. Grinding Titans football is the best kind of Titans football. It is a game we know and we can win.
As such, halftime came with everything to play for at 6-3. And then…well:
God I love playing Jacksonville. They are like watching the opposite of Muhammad Ali: they toy with you, play around early and make it look like their opponents have a real shot at winning. Then, they lose. Spectacularly. Blake Bortles shows week after week the problems with being a colour blind quarterback. It is incredible how up and down one player can be every game. And the worst part for Jags fans is the knowledge that there really is no alternative.
The putrid nature of the Jacksonville quarterback situation is made worse by one simple fact: the Jaguars defense is fantastic. The score on Sunday did not do that defense justice. They have two lock down cornerbacks, a pass rush that rivals the best in the league, and a scheme that puts intense pressure on opposition quarterbacks. But American football is a complimentary game. You can have the number 1 defense in history for all it truly matters, you need to have an offense that is good enough. Carolina have an offense that is good enough. Seattle have an offense that is good enough. Do Jacksonville? For that matter, do Houston?
So, are Tennessee now favourites for the AFC South this year? Maybe. It is mesmerizing watching your team literally run away with games. Derick Henry looked like he is finally ready to break out. Seriously, watch his touchdown run. He trucks over the Jacksonville defense without trying, no dipped shoulder, no breaking stride, nothing. If Pennywise really wanted to scare those kids, he would wear number 22 and start running.
That wasn’t all though. Delanie Walker scored a rushing touchdown. And we still play and utilize a full back! The NFL is a copycat league. Last year, only Dallas and Tennessee really played smash-mouth football, and of the two only Tennessee played such a diverse running game from multiple sets and motion concepts. Other teams are trying to focus more on the running game this year and make complex run schemes to slow down faster, lighter defenses. In my opinion, Tennessee will still be one of the better rushing teams this year, especially if we allow Henry to lead the line going forwards. That fact, coupled with a steady defense and a careful quarterback could be enough to make the Titans stand out in what looks to be a very weak division this year.
At the end of the day, Tennessee are still not a great team. But they may just be good enough. Next week against the Seahawks will be a lot of fun.