After perhaps the most tumultuous week in franchise history, our Tennessee Titans showed they could weather a tempest on and off the field.
What happened Sunday was impressive no matter what you think of the Bengals this year. Jeff Fisher and the Titans' veteran leaders made sure this team's focus was on the one thing they were all assembled to do: win the next game.
The whole game was marred by swirling crosswinds blowing steadily from 30 to over 50mph. Early on the Bengals and Titans both struggled to adjust and get going on offense as they traded punts and penalties.
A Titans drive that began late in the 1st quarter and lasted into the second finally got us on the board. Collins looked good keeping the passing attack focused on short passes and accurate, with the hopes the WRs could break tackles after the catch. Some did, most didn't. Still, the results were exact;y what we needed: steady and reliable. Nothing to frazzle the nerves.
LenDale looked strong running the ball between the tackles, and the team rolled down the field in vintage Fisher/Dinger fashion: 11 plays and nearly 6 minutes long.
The Bengals' only score came a few drives later as the D struggled to stop some nice runs by Chris Perry. Carson Palmer really struggled Sunday. Given how badly he's burned us in the past maybe he was due, but something definitely looked wrong with him. It was his 2nd poor display in a row, and while Kerry wasn't nails, he definitely outplayed Palmer in those conditions.
Later in the second quarter Crazy Legs finally got a crack to run through, and thanked the O-Line by breaking off a 51 yard run. The next play he was good for 9. That's Johnson's true value: where as Eddie was a consistent sledgehammer, Johnson can change the momentum of the game on any given play. An offense that had started to look rough suddenly sprang to life, and the drive ended with a pretty 11-yard pass to Gage.
The entire second half was a grinder. Both teams tried to run the ball but neither got terribly far. The only score was a Rob Bironas field goal that hooked through the upright in nearly impossible kicking conditions. Linemen on both sides kept jumping offsides, but they did excel in swatting away the pizza boxes, bags and wrappers that were floating around the field.
The game's final score came on a sweet blocked punt after the D backed the Bengals down to the one-yard line. Perry was lucky to make it back out of the end zone on that 2nd down play. With a shortened approach for the punter, Bulluck fired through a crease in the blocking and stuffed the ball back to the ground with his full palm. Fitting to his work ethic, Bulluck also recovered the loose ball in the endzone for a touchdown.
It's tough to say a ton about the defenses performance. For short stretches they were getting pushed off the line, but overall they baffled a Bengals offense that struggled mightily with the freakish winds. Boom King (Vanden Bosch) and The Freak (if you don't know who that is go tell your mom you shouldn't be allowed on the internet) combined for the Titans only sack, and former Titan Antwan Odom got the only Bengals sack.
Aided by the lack of vertical passes, the secondary played well and certainly came ready to hit: DBs counted for 6 of our top 10 tacklers.
Jim Schwartz did something I've never seen before outside of the goal line: he repeatedly used DE's (mostly Boom King and Dave Ball) at middle line backer to solidify the d-line in obvious running situations. It was a good gamble, as the Bengals only managed 88 yards on 28 rushes. It was, however, one that may have been provoked by the conditions since throwing it down field was a complete crap shoot.
Final Conclusion? On the field it's tough to draw one. The Titans were largely expected to win this game and they did so in convincing fashion.
The thing to take away from this week is how impressive the Titans' focus was. No one would have been surprised if all of the controversy, whispers and talk had distracted them. The fact that there weren't many penalties and zero turnovers shows that for this team it doesn't matter what reporters and fans are asking about all week long, as long as after the game they're asking about how 2-0 feels.
Thanks for reading. Jimmy will be back soon with his take.