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Defensive Recap: Is It Michael Griffin Time?

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The Titans defense was great for the first 3 quarters yesterday.  They continued their dominance of opposing offenses.  They knocked Matt Schaub out of the game, on what was actually a completely legal play (more on that in a minute).  They were tough against the run only allowing 39 yards.  They didn't give up anything through the air.  If the game would have ended after 3 quarters we would all be praising the dominant defense.  Well, there was a 4th quarter, and in that 4th quarter everything fell apart.

It is really hard to say exactly what happened.  My thinking is that 2 things happened:

  1.  They checked out mentally because of the big lead
  2.  Jim Schwartz and crew went into a soft defense that Sage Rosenfels took advantage of
I think #1 might be the biggest reason.  When I was a freshman in high school we opened up a 35-7 lead on the team midway through the 3rd quarter.  We basically shut it down.  Our coach even pulled most of the starters.  The other team got a couple of easy scores against the 2nd team before the coach put the starters back in.  By that time it was too late.  The starters had no answers for an offense that we had shut down for almost 3 quarters, and we lost.

I think that is pretty much what happened yesterday.  The Titans opened the 4th quarter with a 32-7 lead.  Most of the Texans fans left the stadium because they thought the game was over.  I am sure the Titans' players had similar thoughts.  Albert Haynesworth even said as much:

"We played a great three quarters," he said. "I think we got way too relaxed and we couldn't turn it back on. ... Everything we did we gave (Rosenfels) too much confidence. We should have kept doing what we were doing earlier, just kept getting after him and knocking him down and we would have been all right."
I think that sums up how pretty much every one in the Titans' camp was thinking.  By the time Houston cut it to 32-22 it was just to late for those guys to turn it on again.

#2 has some validity as well.  The Titans backed their corners off the line in the 4th quarter and didn't rush as many guys.  They weren't playing a true prevent defense, but they were playing a lot more soft coverages than they had been the entire game.  These defenses gave Rosenfels, who looks like a Hall of Famer every time he faces the Titans, time to survey the field and find a lot of wide open receivers.

You may have noticed the question about Michael Griffin in the title.  It seemed that every long pass play that was completed yesterday was on Calvin Lowry's side.  I have no idea which ones were actually his fault, but they were on his side.  The last TD pass to Andre Davis wasn't totally his fault because Chris Hope did fall down in coverage, but Lowry has got to go get the ball in that situation.  He cannot wait for it to come to him.  That is what he did, and Davis cut in front of him for the TD catch.

I don't understand why the Titans insist on keeping Griffin at corner.  You have Cortland Finnegan on one side who is playing lights out, and Nick Harper on the other who was your #1 free agent acquisition of the offseason.  Griffin is not going to play over either of those guys.  Why not move him back to free safety?  It is obvious from his time at Texas that he is an awesome safety.  He is a ball hawk who can make plays.  Let's say that none of those plays yesterday were Lowry's fault (I am sure at least a few of them were, but let's say this for sake of argument).  Lowry still hasn't done anything to stand out.  Griffin would if given the chance.  I am 100% sure that he would have picked off that last TD pass if it was him back there instead of Lowry.  Only playing him on special teams is wasting him.  He needs to be on the field more.

The Haynesworth personal foul call was crap.  Technically it was helmet to helmet because the side of their helmets hit, but you typically don't see it called unless a guy leads with his head or hits a guy in the facemask.  There was one thing worse than the call, however, and that was Randy Cross's analysis of the play on CBS.  I don't understand how some of these guys have job.  He went on and on about how violently Haynesworth drove Schaub to the ground.  Hey Randy, that was called a tackle.  That is what defensive players do to offensive players in football.  Unfortunately, Haynesworth is going to get calls like they against him for the rest of his career because he stomped on another player's face.  I guess he made his own bed.

I think the body of work from this season tells us that yesterday's 4th quarter was just an aberration.  The Titans still have one of the best defenses in the league.  They will watch the film from this game, learn their lessons, and come back strong against the Raiders.  I am not worried about them.