Stillers - Titans Game Recap
Today's game was simply a microcosm of the season to date and yet to come. Big plays, mental mistakes, poor execution and another loss plagued the day. Unlike last week's 20-23 loss, this week the Stillers actually attempted a tying FG at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the refs apparently replaced the game ball with a medicine ball as usually sure-footed Brown's kick fell sorely short.
During the early going, Pittsburgh's defense once again came out soft and lame allowing the Titans to march down the field with relative ease. During the middle portion of the game, the defense found a way to clamp down on Eddie George and the running game, but the secondary once again looked weak. Big plays, big plays and more big plays through the air are definitely the Achilles heel of the defense. If not for three interceptions by O'Donnell, the game would have been completely lopsided in Tennessee's favor.
The worst thing about the secondary giving up big plays is that there is no single point of blame. It's not just poor coverage. It's not just poor tackling. And, it's not just a poor pass rush. It's a combination of all three and that is very scary. Were it just one problem or another, at least you could take stock in the fact that the players and coaches could rectify the situation. But with this year's team, if it ain't one thing it's another.
Worst of all for this defense is its posture (or lack thereof) during the waning minutes of a ball game. This week with 2:35 left on the clock, Gildong hit O'Donnell and left him crying on the sideline with a fat lip. (Yes, we are all shocked the fierce Gildong caused another player to bleed) At this point, the cold, stiff Steve McNair stepped under center. Rather than capitalizing on the situation, McNair was allowed to throw a 22 yard pass on 3rd and 11, run for 9, passed for 15, then throw an 18 yard TD to the corner of the endzone. This whole series took the Titans a mere 1:10 off the time clock.
The offensive line showed considerable improvement, giving Graham plenty of time to throw. Once again Hines Ward grabbed five catches and was the Stillers best receiving threat with a whopping 59 yards. Burress, after complaining last week about not getting the ball, dropped several passes including a catchable TD ball on a fade route. Had Burress better positioned himself closer to the sideline, he would have made the grab easily. I have no problem with him complaining about not getting the ball, but he'd better start backing up his complaints on Sundays.
On special teams, the kick coverage was atrocious. The coverage strategy was apparently stolen from watching 6-8 year olds playing soccer. The pre-kick huddle sounds like, "bunch, bunch, bunch....LET'S GO!!" I guess this phenomenon must be blamed on a strange magnetism that exists on the field because I've never seen such awful containment and inability to maintain lane assignments.
In stark contrast, the Stillers return team has looked solid. In the past, fans had to wait for every third or fourth game to see a long return, but this year's crew dishes up big returns regularly (albeit in vain). Despite big returns near mid-field twice during the early going, the offense just could not find a way to capitalize on the momentum and apply early pressure on Tennessee.
Bettis once again ran hard averaging 4.1 yds/carry (19 carries for 77 yards)...he again showed patience waiting for the play to unfold before hitting the line. Fu took advantage of his opportunities picking up 57 all-purpose yards on 7 touches. Miller showed his usually punting prowess averaging 48 yards on 7 punts. After three games the ex-Blitzburgh has just one sack in three games...despite the expectations coming in, Joey Porter has been a bust picking up where Carla Femmons left off last year as a weekly zero. The secondary put on an interception show picking O'Donnell three times (Scott-2, Washington-1). At the end of the first half, Bobby "Call me stupid" Shaw caught a pass and ran inside the Titan 10 where he proceeded to turn the ball over...this was critical as the Stillers could have gone up by three at the halftime.