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Titans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2009 – 1:12 am

Late, late, late. You get talking with cohorts like Ron Wolfley and Paul Calvisi on the flight home and suddenly, there’s not quite enough time to do all your work and you’re writing the aftermath blog entry past midnight at the kitchen table. Certainly there’s been enough time to absorb everything. I thought for sure, once the Cards held for three downs on that final sequence near their goal line, that they’d hold for one more. Great play by Vince Young, but to give up three fourth-down plays … ouch.

So on to some thoughts:

– Obviously quarterback was the big story. Matt Leinart played above average. He didn’t do enough in the first half; he was much better in the second as his confidence clearly grew (I could see it all the way from the press box). He needs to play better, sure. Is it unfair to compare him to Kurt Warner, sure. Warner set the bar high; even if Leinart becomes a star, it’s unlikely he’d ever post the passing numbers Warner does. That’s reality.

– Warner still is doing the “day-to-day” thing. He certainly didn’t come out and declare himself ready to play against the Vikings. The week off helps but it may not be an exact parallel to Anquan Boldin taking a week and then being perfect. What’s concerning is that no tests are saying anything is wrong with Warner, so it’s a matter of when he feels right. It’s a tough way to run a team. I can’t see Leinart being ready for the 10-1 Vikings if he doesn’t get more practice time than last week.

– Leinart wore a glove in practice last week to get a better grip and then —  lookee here!  — he wore it in the game. The subject brought a smile to his face after. “I told Kurt I am doomed, because I am still young in my career and I liked it,” Leinart said, given that Warner permanently wears gloves in games. “We’ll see what happens. But I was comfortable with it.”

– It proved moot, but the Titans have to be thanking their lucky stars the Darnell Dockett sack on the last play of the half – the play where Vince Young suffered brain lock and scrambled around to waste all eight seconds instead of preserving time for a field goal – didn’t come back to kill them. Another three points would have changed so much in the fourth quarter. Props to Dockett on that play too, since Calais Campbell should have had the sack and inexplicably didn’t wrap up (he did the same thing to David Garrard earlier this season). Dockett never stopped coming, and eventually got Young.

– Dockett is playing as well as any defensive lineman in the league. Period. He has to finish strong, but right now, it’d be a crime if he wasn’t a Pro Bowler.

– Ditto on that for punter Ben Graham. Lemme get this straight: Six punts, a gross average of 49.7 yards, a net of 48, five dropped inside the 20-yard line and three of those at the 5, 2 and 1? There isn’t an NFC punter having a finer season.

– Rookies rarely get Pro Bowl nods unless they are at a glamour position, but LaRod Stephens-Howling is deserving of consideration too. He’s been great in coverage on kicks and as a gunner on punts, and now he has a 99-yard kickoff return. He may have had, as an overall showing, the greatest special-teams day I’ve ever seen. He and Graham work magic together.

– Who says Beanie can’t catch? That was a pretty nice grab of the impressive Leinart throw down the sideline. More importantly, that play got Beanie and Tim Hightower on the field together, which will cause matchup concerns for any defense.

– I heard from a couple fans about the Cards not going for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 45 in the fourth quarter (I noticed Hightower asking for the same thing at the time). I say, why? Graham pinned them deep, and at that point, the only touchdown the Cards had given up was Chris Johnson’s 85-yard run. It was the right move and, in hindsight, proved to be the right move.

– That said, the two-yard run by Beanie on third-and-1 on the TD drive may have been the hardest run I’ve ever seen for two yards.

– There were three shots by Leinart down the field I thought should have come closer to working. Twice he tried to find Steve Breaston but the lack of practice time between Breaston and Leinart showed, with Leinart looking long and Breaston cutting off his route with a defender behind him both times. There was also a bomb to Anquan Boldin in which Boldin would have had a one-on-one jump ball – except Boldin didn’t see the ball coming and slowed up, never giving himself a chance.

– Big, big, big hitting going on down there. You could tell from afar but you could really tell down on the sideline. It was intense Sunday and a nice playoff preview.

– Finally, everyone knows how important this game was to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who played college ball at Tennessee State and trained in the offseason with many Titans, including Chris Johnson, whom DRC talked to at one point Sunday (as seen in the photo below). “I holler at him whenever I can,” DRC said, apparently including game days. He almost caught Johnson on Johnson’s 85-yard run. “I didn’t think he was gonna break,” DRC said. “But then he got past ’Los (Karlos Dansby) and I’m like, ‘Here we go.’ ” (Johnson broke free, by the way, because it looked like linebacker Gerald Hayes over pursued and didn’t protect the cutback lane).

DRC played pretty well against the Titans, making a couple of pass breakups and creating the lone turnover of the day, coming from behind to force what was at the time a crucial fumble that was recovered by fellow cornerback Bryant McFadden. DRC thought he’d have bragging rights. And then he didn’t.

“That was hard,” DRC said, “because I’m going to hear about all offseason.”


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27 Responses to “Titans aftermath”

  1. By Jason Rodriguez on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    This was a very tough loss. We had it… odds were in our favor that the Titans would not be able to drive 99 yards for the win… Ugh…

    Dockett had a monster game. IMO we need to extend him. ASAP.

    This one was tough, Darren. I applaud you for being so calm and collected, lol. And kudos for all the hard work even when it is well after midnight. Was the mood somber on the plane or has the team already moved on from this tough loss?

  2. By Javier Montoya on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    The Hyphen was outstanding. Just awesome. He was everywhere. I felt like Matt played excellent. I’ve seen Kurt play about that well and have us win and lose. It wouldn’t have been Kurt’s best game had he started slow as he has in the past and like Matt did today but we had a chance to win with another come back. I get the feeling this won’t be Matt’s best game either and on the road against a team fighting REAL hard behind Vince for that Wild Card spot.. Wow. This is as positive I’ve ever felt in a loss that hurt so bad granted I’m not a player and just a fan but what a game. Great Job Matt! See you Sunday night Brett…

  3. By Paul on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Oh, what a game. What a shame to lose it that way. During that last drive there were four or five completions on crossing routes (crossing from right to left, every time) five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Who had that coverage, and how did it keep getting taken advantage of?

  4. By Jesse Robles on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Im just wondering if Clancy Pendergast is still our defensive cordinator, or if Bill Davis took pointers from him on how to give up long drives on the last drive of big games. Our defense looked exactly like the Super Bowl Defense on the last drive, they played good all game, then what do the Cards do? They don’t coach with consistancy so how do we expect them to play with consistancy. Why do we always stop doing what is working and go with prevent on D, or for the Kill on O (not in this game but previous games). Kudos to Ben Grahm and Larod Stephens-Howling, who both single handedly kept us in the game when we couldn’t get a couple first downs on the last two drives in the 4th. Although, it is one game, with two big games a head of us. I feel if we wouldve won this game we woldn’t have came out with as much intensity as we need to for the Vikes. Lets Go CARDS!!

  5. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    If Kurt is feeling any ill effects Monday, it would be in his and the team’s best interest to let Matt get all the reps with the #1 offense this week. The Minnesota game promises to be a LOT less winnable than the Titans game, or any other remaining game this season, so why not rest Kurt again this week and give Matt some more real-game experience.

    If the Cards D couldn’t stop Vince Young and Chris Johnson, there is little chance they can stop Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, and Visanthe Shiancoe. That is why winning the Tennessee game was so much more important to solidifying the Card’s playoff hopes than the Vikings game. Now, it is a very real possibility that the Cards will be 7-5 and riding a two-game loosing skid going into the Monday night game against a 6-6 San Francisco team with control of the driver’s seat of the NFC West at stake.

    The Cards still control their own destiny, but they gave up a lot of that control with the loss against Tennessee. This team always finds a way to make things more difficult than they seemingly have to be. That is the history of this team going back to the 70s and that is the madness and frustration that goes along with being a fan of this franchise.

  6. By darrenurban on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Jason —

    I wouldn’t call it somber, but it was quiet. Then again, it was a tough game and a lot of guys were simply tired.

  7. By darrenurban on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Paul —

    The Cards were playing mostly zones. The big problem on that final drive (and I haven’t looked at the tape) seemed thatit’s so hard to get consistent pressure on Young, because you can’t quite go all out — because if you do and he slips away, he can run for 20 yards in an eyeblink. That slows the rush down just a tad, and makes it so much harder to cover.

  8. By Aaron on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    It was a tough loss, and once again it was due to our pass coverage. For two years we have watched teams beat us by throwing the ball…hopefully that will be addressed this offseason once again.

    Darren – it looks like there is no way for us to vote for LSH in the Pro Bowl as of now. Do they ever change the players listed once voting opens? While this was a “break out” game, he’s been playing some of the best special teams I’ve seen and really has stepped up in the absence of Francisco.

  9. By darrenurban on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Aaron —

    Since fan voting only counts for a third, I don’t think the ballot situation would keep LSH out, if he gets enough momentum around the league. Still a long shot.

  10. By TucsonTim on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Actually DRC did catch Johnson and his knee was definitely down on the one, unfortunately there wasn’t a decent replay to show where the ball was at that point. Probably a moot point. But I thought it was worth a comment. It would be interesting to know Wiz’s thought process and who is looking at replays before throwing the Red Flag.

    Obviously, if the defense stops them on that last drive then all of the decisions were great, but you have to wonder about a three man rush down on their goal line and back to back all out safety blitz’s especially when we tipped our hand before the second one. I think both of those decisions ended up with first downs.

    In the first half they showed the number of hits and rushed passes Matt had. I forget the number but it was alot. Given that, I thought he played very well. How happy is everyone with the O-line play?

  11. By darrenurban on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Tucson —

    Not sure. The Titans have a decent pass rush; I thought the o-line played fine. As far as the pass rush of the Cards at the end, the reasoning was simple: VY hasn’t proven consistently he can beat teams with his arm. If you would have aid he would have had to fade to pass every play of an 18-play, 99-yard drive to score the winning TD before it happened in two-and-a-half minutes, odds are strong he’d make a mistake. He didn’t make enough.

  12. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Even without Aaron Francisco in the secondary, we still allowed a:

    99-yard drive on 18 plays over 2:37 with 3 fourth-down conversions.

    Again, the secondary of this unit is exposed as it’s Achilles’s heel and biggest area of need that has to be addressed during the offseason, along with an elite pass-rushing linebacker or DE to help Dockett and Campbell.

    Of course, the coaching staff has to also be held accountable for overseeing a nearly identical breakdown that cost this franchise the biggest win in it’s history (aka, Super Bowl 43). Which brings me to the below…

    It’s really upsetting to read comments like those from Bryan McFadden after the game:

    “But that last drive, they made some tough catches and they had some luck. It wasn’t that we weren’t executing.”

    Either McFadden thinks that allowing a 99-yard drive on 18 plays with 3 fourth-down conversions over 2:37 is the definition of executing, or he was making a veiled comment that the players did everything they could, but the coaching staff dialed up a bad strategy and put the D in a bad position to win the game. Continuing on that theme, Larry Fitzgerald definitely didn’t seem happy after witnessing another collapse in the secondary to loose a game…”“We did what we had to do to have a chance to win the game.”

    As was proven again, prevent defenses only prevent you from winning. Let’s hope this coaching staff can learn from the newly chronicled Tennessee history lesson, otherwise the coaching staff is doomed to repeat it yet again. Fortunately for the staff, they have five games left to show their employers and fanbase that they are indeed capable of learning from history.

  13. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Unfortunately, the absolutely stellar efforts from Dockett and LSH are going to get lost in all the Vince Young hoopla which will dominate the media this week. And good for Vince, he deserves all the kudos he will get after his performance. He’s good for the NFL and I hope he makes the best of his second chance.

    It’s a wonder that Jeff Fisher had to be ordered to start Vince Young by Titan’s owner Bud Adams after starting 0-6 with Kerry Collins. At best, Fisher seemed to waffle at that idea when the media questioned him about it, even after the sixth consecutive loss to start the season. And if I remember right, Titan’s LB Keith Bullock also questioned the wisdom of the owner getting involved in personnel decisions. Bud Adams gets my vote for executive of the year, even with his Buffalo double-bird salute (which was refreshing to see, not to mention hilarious coming from an 85 year-old man).

  14. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    How many times has Ken Whisenhunt used the phrase, “obviously disappointed” (or “obviously we’re disappointed”) in his post-game press conferences this year?

    Coach Whiz likes to study what Pittsburgh does and what they did to be so successful since Mike Tomlin took over as coach. If you’ve watched the last two Pittsburg postgame press-conferences with Tomlin, you will notice a big difference between Tomlin and Whisenhunt. Tomlin will be very straight-forward in taking responsibility for a loss and isn’t afraid to comment publicly to his need to hold his players to a higher standard after repeated failures (e.g. kickoff returns). Whisenhunt is much more coy about publicly taking responsibility for poor coaching or assessing poor player performance after a game. That’s not to say that one style is more effective than the other (the Cards are actually one win better than Pittsburgh right now), but it is something to keep in mind when you then ALSO don’t hear players in the locker room taking responsibility for poor play after a loss.

    That said, I would have to assign more fault to the coaching staff for this loss. The team played extremely hard and it’s in their best interest as Dockett said to just forget about it and move onto the next game. While I would allow the players to take that approach, I certainly wouldn’t afford that luxury to the coaching staff who need to take a momentary step back to asses themselves and correct their demonstrated weaknesses, otherwise we might end up fighting for a wild card and not a division title.

  15. By rusty on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    hey darren can you please tell mcfadden to turn around, it might help a little bit.

  16. By kauaicardsfan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    This game is hard to get over, we had so much chances to end the game. We need our offense to drive the ball on those late drives and not put so much pressure on our defense. We have done it on a number of games now where the defense had to “hold down the fort”.
    We are a good team that can exchange punches with any team in this league but we need to be “Great” and put them away.
    We will never question the fight in this team that’s for sure!
    As much as I hate to see it, they will replay the game on Tuesday on NFL Network, maybe I’ll watch all the way till the last drive. Too Painful !!!
    Now lets take it out on the Vikings!!!

  17. By Steven B on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    My most honest response to that last drive is that I felt like we were back at the Super Bowl. Why did the Cards do so much blitzing instead of shutting down the passing game and, most importantly, keeping the Titans away from the sideline? Every time that the Titans got a good play was when we rushed five or six guys.

    Other than the Defensive calls on that last drive, this game was one of the most exciting that I’ve watched in a while. The Cards’ defense is on fire this season, and Leinart did pretty well on offense. Heck, this was their first loss of the season on the road, which is amazing compared to last year. I can’t wait to see these last few games, and hopefully they make it past the first week of the Playoffs. I know they’re capable of it!

  18. By ryan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    well said rusty, mcfadden needs to look for the ball every now and then. I’m pissed that Matt Ware didn’t try and knock the ball out on the last play, he just gave a minor shoulder bump. Swipe at the stinkin ball Matt!!!

  19. By L-Boogie on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    At tough loss and hard to bare as a fan… i am wondering what do the Redbirdz need to do in stopping 4th down conversions? this happened durning the Rams game and also the Titans….

    I personally think B. McFadden is not a GREAT Player… He is TOO soft on his coverage and when his covering reciever catches the ball… he doesn’t go in for the tackle… He just waits for it to come to him…

    GO BACK TO THE STEELERS!!!!!

    GO REDBIRDZ!!!!

  20. By Jesus on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    I know arm chair quarterback, however the one question I have. is why did we get conservative atfer the lutui hold. Lienart was accurate with his passes and we didn’t take a shot for the first down. yes confidence in the defence how about the offence, three downs take a shot. good game though Vikes up next.

  21. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    The only way I see the Vikings loosing Sunday’s game is if they beat themselves and come into the game mentally unprepared (i.e. trap game). At 10-1 with home field advantage through the playoffs still up in the air, I doubt the Vikings are going to let up on the gas against the Cards.

    The Vikings, unlike the Cards, haven’t lost any “trap” games this year and would seem to have a lot more to potentially loose (homefield advantage) with the Saints possibly being 10-1 also after tonight’s game with the Patriots. If the Cards loose and the 49ers win, the Cards will still have a one-game advantage heading over the 49ers heading into their Monday night showdown in San Francisco. Hopefully, the “comforting rationale” used by Coach Whiz that they still hold the division lead won’t inspire the players to give anything less than their best against the Vikings.

    A win against the 10-1 Vikings on national TV is what this team needs if they want to be considered an elite NFL team. Otherwise, they are just going to be pegged (and probably rightfully so as much as I hate to hear it) as a good, but not great team that underachieves in one of the weakest of all NFL divisions.

    If the playoffs were based purely on total record, and not records within divisions, the Cards would hold the #5 seed (Philly #4 with a better NFC winning %) followed by Green Bay at #6. Had the Cardinals won Sunday, they would be held the #3 seed alone. That’s why I think that the Titans game was much more of a, “must win” game than the Vikings game. Of course it really wasn’t, but as for controlling their own destiny (a one game lead over the 49ers), a loss against the Vikings by default will make every remaining game a must win game for the Cardinals if they want to win their division and insure themselves at least one home playoff game.

  22. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    All that said, last season’s success – from the coaches down to the players – can’t be argued with, and as a fan from the outside, I may question certain decisions, but as a whole, Coach Whisenhunt has my full support. As a lifelong fan of this long loosing franchise, I’m not going to get greedy. I believe this team is even better than last year, and that they will only get better under Coach Whiz — although the changes may not come fast enough for hungry fans like me who have waited so long. I’ve waited over 33 years for just a Super Bowl appearance — let alone a win, and I don’t mind waiting a couple of more for another return trip.

    There’s just a feeling though that the window of opportunity is going to be it’s biggest right now and into 2010, but is only going to get quickly smaller after next year (Karlos leaves for the big payday in an uncapped 2010 and Kurt probably retires after 2010, Q leaves after 2010 if he isn’t gone by then, etc.,).

    Once Kurt leaves, Matt is going to need time to get established and personnel decisions will need to be made to transform this team into the run-orientated, ball-control smash-mouth offense that was so successful for Coach Whiz in Pittsburgh. The good news is that the transition plan — which started with the investment in the bruiser that is Beanie Wells — is in place and will gradually continue as existing players choose to leave or are replaced. Of course, if Kurt goes down for any extended period of time, that plan may be sped up considerably so Matt doesn’t have to carry the current load which Kurt has successfully shouldered over the past two years.

  23. By nor cal cards fan on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Coach Whiz has to be sick to his stomach, because i know i am. I thought the whole reason he fired Clancy was to make sure that nightmare last drive in the Super Bowl never happened again. It was a bad case of deja-vu yesterday.The last two weeks we can’t get a stop on 4th down to save our lives.It’s very concerning.Mcfadden is a very poor cover corner, to put it lightly. And i just don’t understand the fact that we still basically haven’t taken a shot downfield to Fitz all year long.It’s mind blowing. He dominated the playoffs with those plays, throw it up and let him make a play.He’s the best in the NFL at it. What’s your take on this Darren?

  24. By James Sancto (the English Cardinal) on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    This is why we love the Cardinals!
    Of course we adore them for being the NFC Champions and winning games; but this game is just the essence of the Cards: making games exciting to the very end, even if it does mean a loss. I was attached to my computer watching the game for over 3 hours and when I saw that infamous final TD I was almost physically sick.
    However, on reflection, the Cards’ ability to make each game explosive and tense is why we are enticed by the Cardinals and will be for years to come. We all know that they will bounce back against the Vikings and that is why we will tune into the game.

    I can’t wait for us to bounce back against the Vikings. Come on the Cards!

    Great job Mr Urban.

  25. By darrenurban on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    Nor Cal —

    I am sure Fitz would love more bomb attempts. But it’s risk-reward, and the way the Cards have been getting better running the ball, I am guessing the Cards don’t want to potentially just throw away downs. You are right, he dominated the playoffs that way. My guess is, as the running game moves forward, you’ll see more shots. Don’t forget, the Cards didn’t really go to those bombs consistently until the postseason. They didn’t do it a ton in the regular season.

  26. By Eazy E on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    WOW!!! What a heartbreaker! That loss hurts man. Matt played ok, but we need him to take more deep shots to fitz, quan, and breaston. The running game wasn’t bad at all. The deep shots we didn’t take really hurt our receivers. Mike Gandy left the game in the 2nd half with that pelvis injury and bridges came in and did his job. In my opinion, bridges deserves to start whether its at LT or RT, because he’s better overall than both Levi and Gandy. The D played really well, the numbers statistically won’t show that but they were on the field a longggggg time. Dockett is just a beast, 3 sacks against a great o-line, come on and put this guy in the pro bowl. Run D wasn’t bad, Chris Johnson is just a spectacular player, the d can’t hold him down forever we need the o to sustain drives and score points. I agree we need that elite olb in our 3-4, because for the 3-4 to be at its best, u have to have a good nose first,good or great end, and a great olb. We have a good nose(b-rob) and a great, elite end(dockett), but not a great olb(?????). I live in Dallas, and I look at every cowboys game, but my favorite team is the cardinals, and I track and if its on look at the cards games, but the reason most o-lines have fits with Dallas is because they have jay ratliff(their Dockett and his number is 90), and DeMarcus Ware(We have nothing close to him, no offense but its true). We need that DeMarcus Ware, that elite olb who teams have to double at that olb position. Our guys are good but not great or elite. We need to address that in the offseason. Drc is a great player, even though he didnt get a pick, he made plays with a big blindside hit to force that fumble that McFadden picked up and went 6 yards with it. McFadden is a good corner, I don’t know what some people are talking about, I agree he does need to turn his head and locate the ball, and as a big cardinal fan, that is frustrating, but some people act like he’s getting burnt everytime you see him, he’s right there he needs to turn and locate the ball, hopefully teryl austin is telling him to improve on that and he’ll be fine. Ben Graham is having a pro bowl season, he is great at putting the opponent inside the 20, 15, 10, 5, etc. Great coverage from the st unit and especially from the hyphen LSH. He returned the ensuing ko 99 yards after the CJ Run. Incredible momentum shifter. This game hurts bad, but on to minnesota. Hopefully Kurt is alright, because it will be hard to beat them without him, no offense to Matt, but they are a great football team, we need all our guns.

  27. By Big Red on Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

    We the FANS Believe in the team. Know It’s up to you the team to really believe in yourself. So please, beat the vikings.

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