Week 3 Game Recap: Tennessee Titans 27, St. Louis Rams 31
What you need to know
Tennessee jumped out to an early ten point lead on the road in this game, and appeared poised to build upon the success they had enjoyed in week two versus Baltimore when Chris Brown went off right tackle for ten yards into the end zone for an apparent 16-0 lead. This momentum quickly dissipated when the blocking tight end was called for holding, and three plays later, a Steve McNair pass into the flat was intercepted by Adam Archuleta and returned the other way for a touchdown. This type of play characterized the type of day the Titans had, as every time things seemed to be going their way, the inexplicable would occur and a heavier burden placed upon the shoulders of the Tennessee offensive and defensive units. The Titans’ defense created plenty of opportunities with four turnovers and four sacks, but the offense unfortunately gave it back three times.
The entire game was a see-saw battle back and forth, which provided for fireworks on the scoreboard and in the statistical measures. Steve McNair completed 24 of 39 passes for 261 yards, with both a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. His primary target was Drew Bennett, who finished with 96 yards on six catches, however Brandon Jones was not far behind in targeted passes (eleven for Bennett, nine for Jones) and piled up 40 yards and a touchdown on five catches. McNair utilized his tight ends heavily in this game, with Erron Kinney catching all seven balls thrown his way for 64 yards, and Ben Troupe pulling in two balls for 20 yards and a touchdown. McNair only threw five passes to his running backs, as he had utilized his tight ends more so in the short passing game.
Tennessee’s initial scoring drives were dominated by the run, however after the big momentum change of the Archuleta interception return, the Titans seemingly abandoned the run, and allowed the game to turn to the shootout tempo which the Rams preferred. When they did run the ball, the Titans were generally effective, with Chris Brown getting the majority of the carries and finished with 83 yards on twenty attempts. Travis Henry received three carries, but did not gain a single yard. The shift to Chris Brown as the definitive ball carrier in this week’s game most likely had to do with the report that Travis Henry has received a four game suspension, and his placement in the substance abuse program elevated for a reported positive test. It is likely that Henry has appealed this suspension, so watch for Gene Washington and the NFL to pass on a formal decree. Given the fragility of Chris Brown, the running back depth chart for the Titans provides for a great deal of speculation, where fullback Troy Fleming may be asked to carry a larger load, or rookie running back Damien Nash out of Missouri (5’10’’, 220 lbs) may be asked to suit up on game days.
While the Titans appeared to be squandering every opportunity given to them, it was Marc Bulger that was providing many of the openings for Tennessee to get back into the game, fumbling three times (and losing two) in key situations in the second half. Bulger had a fumble recovered by the Titans and returned to tie the game at 24-24, and then lost another one after opening the lead to 31-24. If this case of fumblitis was not enough, Bulger coughed one up with less than three minutes remaining, which, fortunately for him, was recovered by his one of his offensive tackles.
Despite this calamity of errors, and injuries to key offensive players, the Rams overcame these mistakes to hold on to a 31-27 win, aided primarily by the Marc Bulger to Torry Holt connection. Bulger finished 21 of 28 with 292 yards and three touchdowns and one interception to overcome his key fumbles and put the Rams in the win column. The main benefactor was Torry Holt, who caught nine balls for 163 yards and a touchdown in the absence of his complimentary receiver, Isaac Bruce for most of the game. Isaac Bruce made just one catch for 11 yards on the day, and exited early with a hyperextended big toe which occurred on the Marshall Faulk receiving touchdown. This is the type of injury which could linger, and also one which slid every other receiver on the depth chart up a notch.
The speedy Kevin Curtis was Bulger’s second favorite target after Bruce’s departure, and finished with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Shaun McDonald had a limited role in this game, seeing Bulger’s first target of the day, but not being looked at after that point in the game. The injury created additional playing time for Dane Looker, who stepped in and caught two balls for 25 yards. Neither tight end (Brandon Manumaleuna or Roland Williams) caught a pass in this game, as the Rams found they were able to move the ball effectively down the field and in the flat to their running backs, where Marshall Faulk caught three passes for 31 yards and a touchdown, and Stephen Jackson picked up a six yard reception.
The Rams running game piled up over 100 yards, and was efficient when utilized, but was likewise abandoned in favor of the more potent passing game. Steven Jackson exited the middle of the game with a rib injury, but later returned, and as a result was limited to just twelve carries for 48 yards. X-rays completed after the game did not reveal a break, but the situation bears monitoring as the week goes on. Given the opportunity to showcase his skills, Marshall Faulk carried the ball six times for 50 yards. Faulk’s four rushes in the second half went for 12, seven, 14 and 13 yards respectively, gaining large chunks of yardage at a time and wearing down the Titans’ defense on the quick field turf.
What you ought to know
|QB Steve McNair, Pass: 24 - 39 - 261 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0|
McNair finished the day with a 77.0 passer rating, which provided a reliable measure of the type of day he had; good enough to keep his team in the game, but not good enough to win. Although he got his primary receivers (Drew Bennett and Brandon Jones) more involved against the Rams than he had in previous weeks, the Norm Chow led offense was not able to come up with the big play, dumping off to the tight end (Erron Kinney or Ben Troupe) quite often. McNair was on the wrong end of an 85 yard interception return by Adam Archuleta that turned the tide of the game, and forced the Titans to play catch up for the remainder of the game.
|RB Chris Brown, Rush: 20 - 83 - 0, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)|
With the pending suspension to Travis Henry, Brown has resumed his role as the primary back in the Titans' offense, instead of a 1 and 1A type role. Brown escaped the game without any injuries, and ran well when given the opportunities, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. The Titans succumbed to the pressures of the Rams’ open style of play, and did not rush the ball much after the big change in momentum caused by the Archuleta interception return for a touchdown.
|RB Travis Henry, Rush: 3 - 0 - 0, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (2 targets)|
Henry’s day goes down as a big zero. That’s how many yards he gained rushing the ball, and how he (and his fantasy owners) must have felt after it was reported that he had violated the league’s substance abuse program. As he was active in this game, he is in the process of an appeal, which the league has not shown consistent response in the amount of time taken before ruling on the subject. He will likely remain active until his suspension becomes formal, but it appears that the Titans’ brass has already made their decision to utilize Chris Brown in more of a primary role in the offense. The even bigger fallout may be in who serves as Brown’s backup in the absence of Travis Henry. Rookie Damien Nash out of Missouri was inactive in week three, but would be a candidate to fill in if the fragile Brown were to miss any time.
Bennett had his best game of the season, but did not find the end zone. The absence of Derrick Mason from this offense has put a significantly heavier load on Drew Bennett, and he has found his new role to be increasingly difficult.
The rookie had his biggest game of the season, providing an outlet whom McNair is slowly building trust in as the season wears on. Jones eclipsed both his season totals for targets (eight) and catches (four) in this game.
Calico had a game he would rather forget, coughing up a fumble and serving as the target on a key McNair interception on a deep route in St Louis territory.
Kinney caught all seven balls thrown to him, averaging just over nine yards per reception and keeping the chains moving throughout the day.
Troupe made a nice move to tiptoe down the left sideline for the first score of the game, but was only able to pull in one more ball on the day, as Erron Kinney was the more targeted tight end in this game.
Bironas connected on field goals of 39 and 41 yards and made all three extra points attempted in this game.
Fortunately for the Titans, Mike Martz did not spend much time rushing the ball in this game, as the front line was unable to contain Marshall Faulk especially, who broke into the secondary on virtually every touch. The rush defense was coming off a spectacular performance against Jamal Lewis, but did not have a very good performance in this game.
Despite coming up with four turnovers and four sacks, the Titans allowed the Rams to put 31 points on the board, and allowed Bulger to complete 75% of his passes en route to 292 yards and three touchdowns, clearly an unconvincing performance.
|QB Marc Bulger, Pass: 21 - 28 - 292 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 3 - 0|
Bulger’s passer rating on the day was 128.9, but the Rams can not expect to win too many games in which he turns the ball over three times in critical situations (two fumbles lost and one interception). Bulger overcame the loss of Isaac Bruce initially be depending more heavily on Torry Holt, and as the game wore on working into a rhythm with Kevin Curtis.
Jackson left the game with a rib injury, but x-rays later did not reveal any type of fracture. His absence from the game prevented him from putting up a big day statistically, but with limited touches, he still managed four yards per carry.
Faulk made the most of his opportunities, gaining 81 yards on nine touches (six carries and three receptions) to go along with a touchdown. Faulk looked very elusive on the home field turf, and might be added to the mix in certain passing situations should Bruce miss extended time.
When Isaac Bruce went down, the team leaned on Holt, and he came up big, finishing with over 18 yards per reception and a nice grab for a touchdown. The absence of Isaac Bruce didn’t change the Titans' defensive philosophy greatly, and Holt was able to take advantage of this all day long.
Characterized with a legitimate 4.35 speed in the 40, Curtis has every opportunity to make the most of a potential starting assignment should Isaac Bruce be sidelined for any length of time. Against the Titans, Curtis added an explosive piece to the Rams’ offense.
With Bruce’s injury, Looker saw an increase in playing time, and took advantage of it with two catches.
Bruce left the game in the second quarter after catching just one ball with what has been diagnosed as a hyperextended big toe. Given that these injuries tend to linger, this should be closely monitored, and the Rams’ receiving depth chart given particular notice. Bruce indicated he’d play next week but coach Mike Martz was more cautious saying it would be Wednesday before he’d know enough to comment on it.
McDonald was targeted on the first play of the game, and other than a one yard punt return and three fair catches, did not touch the ball again all day. After catching eight balls and being targeted twelve times in the first two games, McDonald was a non-factor in this game, even with Isaac Bruce out.
Manumaleuna did not catch either of the passes thrown to him, and was responsible for Bulger’s lone interception in this game in the first quarter.
Williams started the game at the traditional tight end position, but did not have a ball thrown to him all day.
Wilkins made his only field goal attempt of 46 yards, and connected on four extra point attempts.
The Rams’ rush defense began the day unable to stop Chris Brown as the Titans piled it on early, but found themselves untested as the day went on and the Rams pulled ahead, so it was difficult to draw any significant conclusions about the effectiveness of this unit on this day.
The Rams did an effective job of keeping everything underneath and not giving up the big play to the Titans once they obtained the lead. The pass defense allowed just 6.2 yards per pass attempt, and the day was highlighted by Adam Archuleta’s 85 yard interception return for a touchdown.