First, a little explanation. Perhaps it's because the Titans have ripped off five straight wins and seemingly resemble their 2008 form... Perhaps it's because people still don't believe in Colts coach
Throw-by-throw, he looks more like an NFL passer. Last week his highlight reel included a picture perfect, 35-yard rainbow over the uncovered left shoulder of
All of a sudden, Young is a pocket mover, not a runner. He keeps plays alive with his feet, knowing his second or third looks might open up if he can drag the play out that extra second, and it's paying off. Two plays last week against Arizona demonstrate this.
First, Young had first-and-10 at his own 41, up 3-0 in the first quarter. He faked a handoff to
Three quarters later, same thing but at a far more crucial moment. On the final play of the game, Young bought some time with his feet and a pump fake before zipping one to
From the Cardinals' perspective, it had to look a lot like the Steelers' winning play in the Super Bowl last February. And therein lies a comparison Young has to like: the way he keeps plays alive these days resembles
One might read this to mean Young is running less often, but the opposite is actually true. As a starter in '09, he's running 7.4 times a game, as opposed to 5.9 in years past. But Young's runs these days are largely drawn up as such, as opposed to the reckless scrambles we're used to. And when he does take off he's more prone these days to take a step out of bounds rather than risk a collision and a fumble. His average of .75 fumbles per game is down significantly.
But because Young beat Arizona in such a dramatic fashion, we'll remember the late touchdown and the 387 passing yards. We've already forgotten he took two stupid sacks late in the first half of that game, thus costing Tennessee an easy field goal -- a field goal that would have changed the dynamic of the game. Classic Vince Young brainfarts.
Now consider this week's opponent and defense. Indianapolis may rank 15th in yards against average, but it seemingly comes alive at all the right moments. The Colts' win last week against Houston was sealed by a strip of
In an ideal world the Titans keep the game close enough on defense that they can follow a game plan Sunday similar to the one the Miami Dolphins chose in Week 2 against the Colts. In that contest Miami called 49 running plays versus 35 passes and chewed up 239 rushing yards. Possession-wise, the Dolphins were dominant, holding a 45- to 15-minute advantage. That's a picture perfect game in
But Manning and Co. are built to beat that. In a time crunch, they're terrific. The average Colts' scoring drive lasts just 3:19, eighth-shortest in the NFL (Philadelphia is first). And they can keep that time over great distances. Their 33 drives of 70 or greater yards are more than any other team. Hence, they still squeezed in 27 points against Miami in Week 2, which was good enough for a win.
Against Tennessee, Manning faces a no-frills, even front.
Every week, I lend my thoughts on a few particularly startable or sit-worthy players. Here's who's I like in this Week 13 matchup:
Who has Tennessee defeated in this five-game streak, really? Jacksonville and San Francisco. Ho-hum. The careening Texans. The Bills at their darkest hour. And the Cards without Warner. Barely. Color me not impressed.
Whether it translates to his players, I can't tell, but I love Caldwell's attitude about being 11-0. "We're not pulling in the reins by any stretch of the imagination," he said this week. "We aren't comfortable." The way I see it, he and Manning will keep the troops in fifth gear until they can absolutely afford to let up, and that time hasn't come yet. (A true test of how serious the Colts are about not letting up may come in whether defensive end
Manning will attack the Titans' secondary early and Caldwell will load the box against Johnson, leaving Young to do it himself. By the time Indy's up 14-0, Johnson could be an afterthought, and I don't think Vince is to the point where he can keep up with Manning, even with man coverage.