By Chris Lambos
This week, the game plan was pretty simple – simple enough to condense the entire strategy into three words: ‘Pressure Kyle Orton’. And that they did from the get-go as the Tennessee Titans took on the ‘mile high’-flying Denver Broncos at LP Field this afternoon.
In what might have been their finest quarter of defense in recent memory, the Titans applied enough pressure on the NFL-leading signal caller to literally disrupt most passing plays called by Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels. The entire offense found themselves in a hostile, chaotic environment. How successful were the Titans in ‘busting’ the Broncos ‘O’? Here are just a few ‘first quarter’ stats that stand out:
1. Out of the first twelve plays Denver ran, seven of them were for zero or negative yards.
2. Though Denver had only allowed five sacks in the first three games of 2010, Tennessee had registered three
The Titans ended up with six sacks and one interception in the game.
But as the afternoon progressed, it was apparent that Denver was not going to rollover and play dead – with the exception of their running game which compiled a whopping 19 yards in four quarters of play. Orton, who completed 35 of 50 passes for 341 yards, 2 TDs and the lone interception, got things going at the 13:47 mark of the second quarter with a pass over the middle to Brandon Lloyd for 23 yards. Lloyd finished with a team high 115 yards in 11 catches. With a little help from a Titans neutral zone infraction and a roughing the passer call against Sen’Derrick Marks, Orton found Eddie Royal on the same drive for a 2 yard TD strike to put the Broncos on the scoreboard.
The Titans quickly answered back on 1st and 10 with Javon Ringer running left for 54 yards to the Denver 17. Three plays later, Vince Young threw an 8 yard touchdown strike to Kenny Britt to tie the ball game at 7-7. Young on the day was 17 of 28 for 173 yards and 1 TD. After exchanging field goals during the closing minute of the second quarter, both teams found themselves in a 10-10 tie at halftime.
The second half highlight for the home team came from their special teams. After Matt Prater put the Broncos up 13-10 on a 36-yard FG at the 10:36 mark of the third quarter, Marc Mariani went 98 yards untouched on the following kickoff return. Moments later, I was thinking about all those great Italian names enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Canton: “Marchetti, Montana, Marino…..MARIANI???”. It sounded good to me!
I now see why Jeff Fisher stuck with this kid.
But when I say that was the second half highlight for the home team , I meant it. THAT WAS IT! The penalty-plagued Titans (10 flags for 111 yards) seemed to shoot themselves in the cleats at every turn and had multiple opportunities to ‘close the deal’. Chris Johnson was ineffective with 53 yards on 19 carries. I guess the Broncos had a similar three-word strategy: ‘Stop Chris Johnson’.
After the 2:00 warning, the Titans Chris Hope got flagged for an interference call on a deep Kyle Orton pass to Jabar Gaffney. This proved to be the game changer as the penalty advanced the ball to the Tennessee 1 yard line. After an illegal formation call backed the Broncos to the 6 yard line, Kyle Orton found RB Correll Buckhalter 2 plays later for a 6-yard TD pass, putting the Broncos up 23-20.
Time was of the essence with only 1:38 left on the game clock, and even though Tennessee trailed by 3 points, there was a safe feeling amongst the Titans faithful as our future Hall of Famer Marc Mariani was back to field the kickoff. But the kick was high and short…it took a bounce. On a kick that Mariani should have let bounce again, he jumped in the air to field it and was hit simultaneously as he grabbed for the ball. Mariani muffs the catch and Denver recovers all but sealing their victory.
Did Mariani go from special teams ‘hero’ to special teams ‘zero’ all in one half of play? Is the word ‘Mariani’ the Italian definition of ‘Ying Yang’? Is this just a remake of the classic spaghetti-horror flick “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mariani”? OK, I’m just blowing off a little frustration with a little humor (as I did with mathematical jokes after Vols loss). Marc Mariani is young and makes very few mistakes. I’m sure he will entertain us with more spectacular returns in the not too distant future.
The Titans did have a few seconds for VY to throw a couple of long balls, one being a perfect pass to Kenny Britt, but the ball fell right through Britt’s hands.
The final score: Denver 26 Tennessee 20.
Next week, the Titans play a hungry (1-2) Dallas Cowboys team. Kickoff is at 3:15 PM CDT
What Did We Learn From This Game?
Chris Johnson won’t surpass 2500 yards but Chuck Cecil will surpass 2500 dollars (You can’t point at refs with that finger, Coach C!)