I've had a chance to go through the all-22 from the win over the Bills, and what follows is a melange of my thoughts on the various plays from the game.
1. Chris Johnson's yards gained were overwhelming a function of good blocking by the offensive line. If he had 195 yards, any of the top 50 or so backs in the NFL with sufficient speed could have had at least 180 yards, maybe more. Full credit to the offensive line, who did a much better job of winning 1v1 matchups and getting off double teams and on to the second level.
2. Praise to the offensive line notwithstanding, Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams still blew up a number of plays with penetration, both against the run and against the pass. He was an equal opportunity offender, beating each of Leroy Harris, Fernando Velasco, and Steve Hutchinson at least once.
3. Kenny Britt had three catches for 26 yards on the opening drive, just one catch for 4 yards the rest of the game (though he did draw a defensive holding call). He'd down there with Kendall Wright at the bottom of the wide receiver DVOA leaderboard. While I wasn't watching him in detail on the plays he wasn't targeted, I'm not seeing a player who's regularly beating defenders.
4. Jared Cook has been targeted at least 4 times in every game this year, but I still struggle some with him. His role a number of times was once again routes that draw defenders and open up space for other players. How much of that is intentional decoy coverage, and how much of that is defenses making an effort to take him away?
5. I haven't kept track of such things regularly, but the Titans seemed to use a fair bit of full house backfield this game. Casually, the backs in front of CJ seemed to normally be Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson. Thompson matched his season-high for snaps, and that came in the Texans game with Cook limited.
6. Kendall Wright's put up some terrible efficiency numbers and was only targeted three times. All of those were completed, though, and one of them, where he converted third-and-long off a screen was an excellent play. I wouldn't say Damian Williams (four targets this week) has passed him, but I think with Britt being less limited we're seeing Wright start to settle into a more moderate usage pattern.
7. Jamie Harper's day was a little bit better than his conventional statline of 7 carries for 8 yards would indicate, but watching him I'm still reminded strongly of the better version of LenDale White. That's not really a compliment.
8. Matt Hasselbeck for the second straight game looked like Matt Hasselbeck. He missed a couple throws, as he admitted this week. He took a sack he probably shouldn't have (and another one where Kyle Williams ole'd Harris). There were a couple downfield throws I think Locker might have attempted that Hasselbeck can't make and doesn't try because he knows he can't make. At the same time, he did a nice job in the no huddle on the first drive and made a number of very good decisions and throws. He was pretty careful with the ball, which is a necessary prerequisite to him being effective. The game-winning touchdown was a well-placed throw roughly 20 yards downfield-don't underrate that.
9. Kyle Williams aside, the Bills' defense stinks. They struggled in the back seven, which wasn't a surprise, but the sheer number of coverage busts and bad beats was kind of a surprise. Aside from Kyle Williams, my play notes rarely include praise for defenders until better defense on a couple jerk routes by Washington late in the game.
1. Ooh boy. This was not a good defensive performance against a sometimes capable but rarely good offensive team. I went back and forth while watching on (a) which defense was more inept, (b) which was easier to fix, and (c) which defensive coordinator should be on a hotter seat, without reaching a conclusion on any of them.
2. By this point in the year, we know the Titans can't really tackle. This isn't really news. The Bills did a good job early in the game of scripting play, and when they didn't, Jordan Babineaux blew what would otherwise have been a tackle for loss. Happened twice on the opening series. He kind of made up for it late, with a leaping tip in the next to last play and pressure as a free rusher on the final play, but I didn't think it was his best day.
3. Al Afalava, who played after Babineaux left in the third quarter with his wrist injury, did a good job of coming up as a hitter, but my impression was of a guy who's a hitter in the modern tradition rather than a tackler. This is a classic "in my day" blah blah complaint, but it still frustrated me.
4. The Bills' final touchdown, the 27-yarder to Stevie Johnson, came against a Cover-0 blitz where Johnson beat Jason McCourty way too easily. The rush was easy to identify, what with a downfield Michael Griffin following C.J. Spiller's movement, and easy to block, with Spiller free to pick up the rush and Griffin too far downfield to convert into an effective rusher against Fitzpatrick.
5. The Titans are still terrible in run defense in sub package sets. Nobody's winning 1v1, and the result is huge chunks of yardage. The Bills ran the ball 22 times, 15 of them (68%) were successful.
6. The Titans lined up in two-high safety looks way too often for my liking against a quarterback who throws downfield as rarely and ineffectively as Ryan Fitzpatrick. That extra guy in the box, or at least lurking enough to come down and threaten it, is something I'd like to see the Titans do.
7. Chalk another one to the list of Michael Griffin touchdowns, as he bit hard on the corner part of Donald Jones' corner-post route that cut the lead to 28-27. He was probably also the only guy that could have done something on the middle screen that resulted in the first touchdown, though that one's not nearly so unambiguously his fault.
8. Judging by his 9-yard gain on third-and-1, C.J. Spiller is faster than Tim Shaw. Who ever would have guessed such a thing!? Seriously, though, I didn't see much positive that stood out from the linebackers in this game, and what I did see positive was more about getting beat and then recovering. I'm not sure Will Witherspoon is quite as bad as the Titans seem to think he is, though he's not exactly standing out in a positive way either. I'll be interested to see what the nickel package looks like, especially if Colin McCarthy is limited or inactive once again. If it's Xavier Adibi, I'm going to scream.
9. I ended up higher on Ryan Mouton's play than I expected to be. He had a couple standout plays-a good stick on third down to force a field goal, a blown up screen, and some not too bad run support. Not Cortland Finnegan, but something.
10. Kamerion Wimbley has his shoulder dip move, and it'll work against some opponents. Hairston was one of them, though he only had the one big sack. Derrick Morgan had two quarterback hits. Ryan Fitzpatrick is still hard to sack.
That's about all I have from last week. Q&A should be up Friday around lunchtime, Enemy Intelligence should go up Saturday morning.
Great post Tom...I hope you can get one of these up after every game.
Do you think Griffin is on the team after this year? I hope they can find someone better in FA or the draft.
Also, I tought Zach Brown looked pretty good in his limited play. He blew up a screen in the fourth quarter that helped lead to the Bills punt (the 10 yard punt or so). Also, was he in there at middle linebacker at the end of the game or was he playing instead of Ayers? I could not tell, but I thought so.
The Titans two biggest problems seem to be lack of any pass rush and bad safety play. I am glad the Robert Johnson experiment is dead and over. I can see a wholesale retooling of the safety position in the offseason. And Al Alfalava is definitely not the answer.
The lack of targets to Jared Cook is frustrating...but if he is drawing defenders to create space for other players he is a plus to have on the field and needs to be on the field more.
Do you think Britt perhaps is not the player he was before his injury? He certainly is playing like he isn't.