*** Upon Further Review is brought to you by Brian Shrout, Pablo Carranza and yours truly ***
The Tennessee Titans finished 2009 shy of the playoffs with an 8-8 record. They have started the 2010 season at 2-1. Tennessee beat the Oakland Raiders in Week One, lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second week and trounced the New York Giants in their most recent game. Led by last years best Running Back Chris Johnson and quarterback Vince Young, the mighty mighty Titans are hosting the Denver Broncos in this week's match-up. After a tough loss to the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts in their last effort, the Broncos are looking to rebound. They aren't coming to Nashville for the Music, but they sure wouldn't mind some Southern Hospitality on Sunday.
The game is set for Sunday Oct. 3rd at 11:00 a.m. MDT. It will be televised regionally on CBS with Kevin Harlan doing the play-by-play and Solomon Wilcots providing the color commentary. Check here for the Broadcast in your area. The weather Conditions at LP Field are expected to be:
Wind Impact: LIGHT
NE at 10.0 mph
To view the latest weather forecast, you can visit this link.
On the other side of the ball, we have a 4-3 Defense. The Titans kept eleven Linemen on the roster this year and they have a pretty good rotation in Jason Babin (2 Sacks), William Hayes, Jacob Ford, Jason Jones, Jovan Haye, Tony Brown, Sen'Derrick Marks, Dave Ball (2 Sacks) and rookie Derrick Morgan (2 Sacks). The Titans like their front four to get to the quarterback consistently, and they use the bull rush more than the speed move. The Linebackers are led by MLB Stephen Tulloch and OLB's Will Witherspoon and former Bronco Jamie Winborn. Witherspoon has a sack in each of first three games. That is worth noting since Tennessee doesn't usually use their linebackers in the pass rush, preferring them in coverage and going sideline to sideline. In the backfield, FS Michael Griffin leads the team with 31 tackles and SS Chris Hope has 19 to his credit. The Corners are Jason McCourty and the tenacious Cortland Finnegan. As a unit, they are ranked 5th in the league with 14 points per game, 7th in Total yards (294.7), 5th in Passing Yards (178.3) and 17th against the run (116.3). Tennessee is allowing 14 points per game, and has allowed just one rushing and one passing touchdown this season. Their opponents have scored only 32 points on 12 trips inside the Red Zone this season.
Bronco fans are familiar with Titans punter Brett Kern. So far this year, Brett has a 47.0 yard average, and is 7th in the league with a 40.9 net and a long of 60 yards. Of his 14 punts, 9 have been returned for an average of 7.3 yards. Kicker Rob Bironas has hit on all his Field Goal and Extra point attempts with a long of 48 yards this year. His career long is 60 yards, so you know his leg is strong. Rob's kickoff depth lands on average at the 3 yard line. He has kicked off 16 times--five have been touchbacks and 10 have been returned an average of 28.7 yards. One has gone for a touchdown and the Titans have successfully recovered an Onside kick this year. The return man for Tennessee is Rookie Marc Mariani and so far this season, he has been a pretty good find. A 7th round pick in this years draft, Mariani has 10 Kick Returns for an average of 24.1 yards, with a long of 45. He has had a couple long returns called back because of penalties, but I fully expect him to take one to the house before season's end. Marc also has 6 Punt Returns for a very good average of 10.7 yards and a long of 38. And like a certain Bronco Rookie return man, he has fumbled once.
So with all that in mind, we turn to the past to find what the future has in store for the Broncos in Sunday's contest.
In WEEK 1, the Titans played host to the Oakland Raiders. Tennessee won the game handily by the score of 38 - 13. This game didn't start well for Oakland. It appeared like they weren't ready for the start of the season at all. The opening kickoff was fumbled, the 1st pass attempt was a batted down screen pass followed by a False Start and then a Delay of Game penalty. In all, the Raiders had eight penalties in the first half and by then, the damage was done.
The Raiders gave up 205 yards rushing. Chris Johnson had 142 of them and added two touchdowns. Vince Young threw for154 yards and 2 TDs, ran for another 30 yards, and Javon Ringer got his first career rushing touchdown.
Vince Young opened the game with an Option Right Keeper for 20 yards. A few plays later, on A 3rd and 12, Kamerian Wimbley knocked the ball from Young. Richard Seymour recovered and Oakland was able to convert it into a Field Goal. Other than that, the pass blocking looked good. In fact, they didn't have a lot of trouble with the Oakland front four at all. Oakland did well in their outside containment of Chris Johnson, but the 191 lb. Running Back sprang loose for a 76 yard touchdown run on a Draw play--one cut, one move and he was gone for 6.
With the running threat in CJ2K, Vince Young was able to capitalize on the Play-Action with a 56 yard pass to Nate Washington for a touchdown. The Titans also converted 2 turnovers into 10 points. Tennessee ran away with 24 unanswered points to ice this game five minutes after halftime.
In WEEK 2, the roles reversed. The Steelers turned seven Tennessee miscues into four Jeff Reed field goals to beat the Titans 19-11 in this slop fest. The turnovers helped the Steelers hold the ball for more than 33 minutes to wear out Tennessee.
Steelers Antonio Brown scored on an 89-yard kickoff return to open the game. Then Stevenson Sylvester stripped Titans rookie Marc Mariani of the ball on the next play, a 34-yard Kickoff return. These two teams showed an intense hatred for one another which is surprising since they are not in the same division. After the kickoff touchdown and the fumble one play later, the Tennessee players had enough. A melee ensued when Hines Ward tried to cheap shot Jason Babin. At any rate, the Titans got a measure of revenge back. On 3rd and 6, LB Will Witherspoon knocked the ball out of Dennis Dixon's hand. The Titans recovered and the turnover resulted in a Field Goal.
The Steelers intercepted Vince Young twice and sacked him, forcing him to fumble for a third turnover. That got him benched in the hope that backup Kerry Collins might light a fire under the team. Bryant McFadden intercepted a Collins’ pass to end his first series, and then recovered a fumble from the Titans backup quarterback. Kerry rallied the team too little too late. With the score 19-3, the Steelers were rushing 3 and dropping 8 players into coverage. That made it easy for him to drive down the field and toss a 2-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington with 58 seconds left. Then Collins threw a 2-point conversion pass to Kenny Britt. The Titans even recovered an onside kick, but McFadden broke up Collins’ pass to Washington in the end zone, and Chris Johnson was tackled after a short pass to end the game.
The Steelers came in with the plan to stop Chris Johnson and they did just that, holding him to 34 yards on 16 carries. Johnson broke loose for an 85-yard touchdown scamper in the 2nd quarter, but it was negated by a holding penalty.
Tennessee kept Pittsburgh out of the end zone, forcing the Steelers to settle for Reed’s field goals. They held the Steelers to 127 yards offense. The Titans D-Line showed good pursuit on stretch plays and Pittsburgh had trouble running off Left Tackle. It could have been the rotation of Flozell Adams and Tony Hills, or it could have been that starter Max Starks was inactive with a bad ankle.
A week after Tennessee turned over the ball seven times in a loss to the Steelers, Chris Johnson ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns, Vince Young threw a touchdown and the Titans didn't lose the ball once in a 29-10 win over the New York Giants in WEEK 3. The Tennessee defense forced three turnovers over the error-prone G-men, including two inside their 6-yard line.
The Giants hurt themselves plenty with undisciplined play. They missed two field goals and gave Tennessee a safety with a chop block in the end zone. New York also had two drives inside the Titans 6-yard line end in turnovers. The flustered Giants were flagged for five personal fouls, including two by offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie that led to him being yanked from the game.
The Giants got a 50-yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes and a 10-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw in a 10-10 opening half. Quarterback Eli Manning had a decent outing, going 34 of 48 for 386 yards. New York even out-gained the Titans 471-271, but the mistakes made the one-sided yardage insignificant.
The go-ahead score came early in the third quarter. On a 3rd-and-10 from the Giants 1, Eli Manning hit Mario Manningham on a go route for 44 yards down the sideline. But Ahmad Bradshaw was flagged for a chop block in the end zone, causing a safety.
The ensuing free kick was a line-drive 53-yard punt and Rookie Marc Mariani returned it 22 yards to the Tennessee 49. It only took six plays for Vince Young to hit Kenny Britt on a 13-yard touchdown pass for a 19-10 lead.
The Giants had a chance to get back in the game, but Bradshaw, who had runs of 22 and 20 yards, fumbled at the Titans 5 and Alterraun Verner recovered. Then Giants OT David Diehl was called for a personal foul for ripping the helmet off the head of safety Cortland Finnegan.
Rob Bironas added a short field goal and Johnson, who scored on a 1-yard run in the first half, iced the game with an 8-yard touchdown run.
Kyle Orton will be operating against a depleted Titans secondary after starting cornerback Jason McCourty injured his arm last weekend. Rookie Alterraun Verner will start in his place against the Broncos. A 2010 4th-round selection by the Titans, Verner has recorded four tackles and defended a pass and has seven special teams tackles this season.
Defensive Tackle Tony Brown (knee) did not Participate in practice on Thursday, but will be a game day decision for Sunday. Defensive End Jacob Ford (knee) did not practice either and was Inactive last week.
Offensive Lineman Mike Otto has been unavailable since the middle of preseason with a knee injury, and it appears that he could be out for awhile longer. Otto had his knee scoped Aug. 26 and has not yet returned to practice. He is the Titans' top backup along the offensive line. The Titans don't have much experience behind their starters on the offensive line with three 2nd-year players with little game experience under their belt. Troy Kropog, a tackle taken in the 4th round of the 2009 draft, is the most experienced of the backups. Behind him are two players who spent time on the practice squad last year--Guard/Center Fernando Velasco and Guard Ryan Durand.
This is the second time the Broncos have visited LP Field in the regular season. Since the Titans organization moved from Houston to Tennessee in 1997, the Broncos have faced them on the road just once—-a 37-16 Loss on Christmas Night in 2004.
The Broncos have played Tennessee 34 times in the regular season, and have a record of 13-20-1. The Broncos are 5-13 on the Titans home turf. This is just the third meeting between the two teams since 1992.
Tennessee is 14-5 at home vs. Denver, but the Broncos beat the Titans 34-20, in their last meeting on Nov. 19, 2007. The Broncos currently hold a two game winning streak over the Titans.
The line in Las Vegas has the Tennessee by 6 1/2 points.
A few more tidbits:
Vince Young is 7-2 as starter at home since 2008. Chris Johnson is averaging 131.1 yards rushing in his last eight home games.
RB Laurence Maroney ran for 123 yards in his last game against Tennessee while with New England in 2009.
Jeff Fisher’s Record vs. Broncos: 1-2.
Josh McDaniels is 3-0 in the month of October.
From the Cheap Seats -- Brian Shrout's take
This may sound just a bit obvious, but if the Broncos can control three areas of the game, they have a good shot at winning. And no, those three areas are not: offense, defense and special teams. Though controlling all three of those aspects of the game couldn't hurt. Rather, what the Broncos need to take charge of is: (1)The Titans' running game, (2)The Titans' return game, and (3)Self-discipline in the area of penalties. Let's take a quick look at each of these.
In their two wins, the Titans ran for 205 and 161 yards. In their loss, they ran for 46 yards. However, the story goes farther than that. Each of the Titans' three opponents rushed for over 100 yards, and two of them lost. Passing is not a guaranteed winner either, since Pittsburgh beat them with only 21 passing yards. What stands out about the Titans' running game is that when it is bottled up, they are not particularly strong on offense. In the two wins, the Titans went 13 of 17 for 140 passing yards and 10 of 16 for 110 passing yards. In neither of those games did they have an interception. In the loss, Tennessee went 24 of 35 for 192 yards, but were intercepted three times. Not only that, but in the two wins, the Titans fumbled twice, and lost one. In the loss, they fumbled seven times and lost four. Force them to go to the air, and their offense loses much of its effectiveness.
The Titans have shown a great willingness to return the ball, no matter where they get it. In their two wins, opponents put the kickoff in the end zone 10 times out of 13 kicks. The Titans ran 5 of those out of the end zone. In their loss, no kicks went into the end zone. The Titans are averaging 24.1 yards on kick returns. Their longest kick off return is 45 yards. Their punt returns are averaging 10.7 yards per punt. Their longest punt return is 38 yards. This is a team that loves to challenge teams when receiving kicks. Denver would benefit greatly by forcing the Titans to a longer field.
Penalties have also proven to be a game changer for the Titans. In their two wins, Tennessee was penalized 8 times in each game, while their opponents drew 10 and 11 flags. In the loss, the Titans drew 11 yellow flags while their opponent only drew five. It's obvious that if the Broncos can avoid mental lapses, the Titans may very well make them instead.
Obviously, there are a number of areas that Denver needs to improve on if they want to beat the Titans. From the cheap seats, it appears that the Broncos greatest efforts should be on:
1) Bottling up the Titans' running game -- it can be done, after all they held Addai to 40 yards.
2) Better kick coverage, knowing that the Titans will attempt to run the ball hard on returns.
3) Avoid those horrid yellow flags.
Pablo's take on the Titan Offense in Week 3
I was a bit surprised by the play of the offensive line. They weren’t bad but I was expecting better. Pass-blocking looked good. They gave Young just enough time to make the throw but without much room for error. The right side looked a bit vulnerable so we should be able to get some pressure there. Run-blocking was not as good. The holes were small and they weren’t there for very long. The right side was also the weak link in the run-game. They made a few changes due to Kevin Mawae retiring so that could be a big reason why.
Here’s the real threat. Chris Johnson is arguably the best back in the league. He doesn’t need a big hole to break a big run. Johnson showed his toughness and his attitude against the Giants. He showed them 32 times to be exact. He was hammered and shut down for most of the game but he still ran for over 100 yards, 2 scores, and he never lost his composure. He’s also has blazing speed. Javon Ringer is a dangerous backup so watch out for him too.
Some talent here but nothing too concerning. Justin Gage is the savvy vet of the group. Nothing fancy but he’ll make a play when needed. Nate Washington is the speedster. The deep threat type guy. He was targeted the most against the Giants. Kenny Britt is a pretty well-rounded player. Not great at anything but pretty solid.
Bo Scaife is a very underrated player. A good enough blocker and a really good receiver.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Broncos will need to contain Vince Young or he will burn them for 20 yards at a time with his feet. Better to make the Titans earn their points through the air and keep 8 in the box to take away Chris Johnson. For a mere 191 lbs., CJ2K is amazing. He can bounce off tackles and when it seems like he is stopped, he changes tack and gets more yardage. The Titans are 14-4 when CJ2K runs for 100 yards or more, 22-8 when he has at least 15 carries and 8-1 when he is handed the ball at least 25 times a game. So the Broncos need to corral Chris Johnson by "roping his legs" as it were. Well, isn't that how you stop a work horse from running?