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Chargers 23 Titans 17: The Defense

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I am really sick of hearing all this crap that Shawne Merriman and some Chargers' fans are saying about Jeff Fisher ordering the hit that knocked him out of the game. First off, the play was perfectly clean. If Fisher did tell the guys to go out there and take a clean shot at him, in my mind that is just football. If you don't like it, in the words of Dan Hawkins, "Go play intramurals brother." If Merriman wouldn't take cheap shots at the other team's quarterback there wouldn't be any reason for retaliation. He only has himself, and maybe the steroids, to blame.

Now, on to the defense. The defense put together as dominant a first 3 quarter performance as I can remember. They held the best running back in the game to just 32 yards in the first half. They were getting all over Philip Rivers every time he dropped back to pass. I would not trade Kyle Vanden Bosch for any defensive end in the league. It is hard to appreciate how hard he plays until you see him in person. On plays where he gets knocked down he crawls on all fours to get to the quarterback. His motor never stops.

The Titans held the Chargers to 3 and out on each of their first 3 drives, the 3rd one actually ending in an interception. I said last week that getting pressure on Rivers would force him into mistakes. That held true, especially early in the game. Rivers was knocked out of the game for a couple of series at the end of the first half which brought in Billy Volek to a chorus of boos.

That made me laugh. People loved him here for years because he was a great backup, and then he and Fisher go at it in the media when he leaves, and people hate him. I don't know everything that went on there, but I would have been mad about the way the whole thing went down as well. If the coaching staff really had a problem with Volek all along, they should have brought Collins in from the beginning of camp last year.

Anyway, as you may know, football games are 4 quarters long. It is hard to really say what changed in the 4th quarter. You aren't going to hold an offense like the Chargers down for a whole game. The first score wasn't that alarming. I even turned to a friend of mine and said it was good for one of my fantasy teams that LT was getting a junk touchdown. Obviously that turned out not to be the case.

The Titans did get a couple of bad breaks on the last drive, but you cannot blame them for the loss. I am convinced that Chris Chambers didn't catch that ball, but there was not an angle that could overturn the call on the field. The next problem was when they came back from the review the officials didn't start the clock for at least 10 seconds before the snap. That makes all of the difference in the world considering the snap on the TD pass to Antonio Gates came with 9 seconds left on the clock.

Speaking of that play, I don't have a huge problem with the Titans having Michael Griffin out there one-on-one with Gates. What I do have a problem with is the fact that he didn't jam him coming off the line. Griffin has virtually no shot to defend that if he doesn't jam him because Gates has the option of running a slant or a fade. Defending both is impossible. A jam also could have thrown off the timing of the play enough to make the pass incomplete.

By the way, on the play before the TD pass, Cortland Finnegan made a heck of a play to break up a fade thrown to Chambers. It is safe to say that Finnegan has been the biggest surprise of this season. I was confident that he could be a good corner, but I had no idea he would be this good.

The defense showed what they were made of by stopping the Chargers on their first possession in overtime. Considering that they had been on the field so much at the end of the game, I really thought the game was over when the Chargers won the toss. You knew it was just a matter of time when the Titans weren't able to do anything on their overtime possession.

The final numbers don't look good, but the defense played pretty well on Sunday. In the NFL you have to score points to win. The Titans cannot keep hoping to win games when they score less than 20 points. That is the bottom line.

We are now ready to move on from this game. It is time to start looking ahead to the Kansas City Chiefs. Every game from here on out is a must win.