By Chris Lambos
After watching the Titans beat division rival Houston 20-17 on Monday Night Football (and taking into consideration the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday), I decided to make a list of 5 things I am most thankful for.
1. The Second Coming of Vince Young: We all knew Vince Young could run the ball in Austin, but some of us were skeptical as to whether VY could pass the ball in Nashville. Once in Titan Town, the 6′ 5″ scrambler was making plenty of headlines with his feet, earning the NFL’s 2006 Rookie of the Year Award. But as time passed, his passing game (or the lack thereof) was making more headlines. After last year’s first Jacksonville game, Vince was benched in favor of a more seasoned passer, 12-year veteran Kerry Collins.
Notwithstanding his maturity level, I really thought Vince Young was finished – surely as an NFL ‘starting’ quarterback. But sporting a 0-6 record, Titans owner Bud Adams told Coach Jeff Fisher that he wanted Vince Young making the calls. Fisher did not think Young gave the Titans the best chance of winning – many agreed. But most of those who sided with Coach on that argument (including yours truly) also felt VY would be a much needed breath of fresh air.
After 4 games, Vince is undefeated. His stats are more than respectable, completing 56 of 84 passes for 585 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. He has been sacked just once and has run 33 times for 146 yards and another TD. His performance Monday Night (12 of 22 for 116 1TD 0 Int. and 73 rushing yards on 11 carries and 1 TD) was his worst game statistically through the air, but as Mike Heimerdinger retools the offense for a more option-oriented attack, expect lower passing #s and higher rushing yardage. Having a 2006 Vince back makes me grateful in 2009.
2. RB Chris Johnson: The 4.2-speed dasher from East Carolina leads the NFL in rushing in his 2nd season in the league. He has compiled 1242 yards in only 10 games. In comparison to 2008, he rushed for 1228 yards in 15 games. With the return of Vince Young, defenses have 2 major ground gainers to contain vs. 1 a year ago. This is somewhat reminiscent of the NcNair/George threat a few years back but with more speed and agility. Chris Johnson is on his way to the running back’s holy grail – the 2000 yard season. He has proven to be one of the best draft picks in recent memory, to which all Titans fans are grateful.
3. The ‘D’: I have been critical of the defensive unit since pre-season. From blotched assignments, poor tackling and extinct blitzing packages to a defensive coordinator’s questionable game philosophy, The D has been under scrutiny. It started with the departure of Albert Haynesworth and trickled down from there. Add a rookie defensive coordinator who thinks ‘Blitz’ is one of Santa’s reindeer, and you have all the makings of an 0-6 NFL start. But let’s give these guys credit. They had some key injuries in the defensive backfield which led to many of problem (see Week 6 Stats vs. New England). Though Haynesworth left a big void in the defensive line, a few players have stepped up including Williams Hayes, who leads all linemen in tackles. The guys seem to be in-sync. Even Chuck Cecil is running more blitzes. My favorite defensive play in Week 11 was when Vince Fuller came into the game to replace Michael Griffin for a few plays, We were expecting the Houston QB Shaub to pass the ball Fuller’s way – but that’s hard to do when Fuller is blitzing (who happened to sack Shaub for a loss on that play). It’s for calls like that make me very grateful!
4. Rob Bironas: He’s making big kicks again. It was his game winning kick that put the Titans over the top with seconds left to defeat the Houston Texans in Houston. Ironically, Houston was the site where Bironas broke the NFL record for most FGs in a game (and kicked the game-winning FG as well). What is it about the city of Houston that brings out the best in Bironas? I’m not sure, but whatever it is, this Titan fan extremely grateful!
5. Bud Adams: Though Mr. Adams owns the team, he still shares the same appreciation of the game as fans do….he’s looking for ‘entertainment value’ just like you and me. But after the New England massacre, Bud called ‘timeout’. He wasn’t being entertained anymore. Vince Young entertains. The rest is history.
I won’t blame Coach Fisher for wanting to stick with Collins, but I will applaud Bud Adams for appreciating the term ‘change-of-pace’, and to this I am MOST grateful!