Friday, September 28, 2007

Schedule Update

I will be out of town this weekend, and college football viewing is expected to be at least as limited as it was three weeks ago. NFL viewing will be at least as limited. Thanks to S. for scheduling his wedding on the Titans' bye week, at least. The remainder of Upon Further Review for the Colts game should be up Tuesday evening. The first half of the Saints game should be up Wednesday evening. The second half of the Saints game should be up Thursday evening. All of the dates may slip. I'm going to do my damnedest to get UFR up before next Sunday's game against the Falcons, though.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Book Review: The Missing Ring

The dominant story of the 1966 college football season, as I'd heard it for basically my entire life resolved around Michigan State and Notre Dame, and their famous 10-10 tie in which Irish coach Ara Parseghian elected to take a knee rather than try to win the game outright, figuring that since his team was (i) Notre Dame, (ii) on the read, and (iii) already the #1 team in the polls, there was no need to do any other. He was vindicated by results, as Notre Dame finished 9-0-1 and ranked #1 in the polls.

There is also another story of the 1966 season, though, and it belongs to the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide finished #1 in the AP poll in 1964 and #1 in 1965 as well. They then went undefeated in 1966 and, despite ranking #1 in the preseason polls, finished the year ranked #3 overall, behind Michigan State and Notre Dame. The story of this "injustice" is told in The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, by Keith Dunnavant. Dunnavant tells the story of that Alabama team and their season, and does that well. The book is also replete with those two other college football nostrumsm: whining about regional bias and the polls. The story, at least as told from Alabama's perspective, is that George Wallace is the reason Alabama didn't win 3 straight AP National Championships. It's a reasonably well done book, and if you're sympathetic to Dunnavant's clear bias, then it's probably worth reading if you're a college football fan.

Reading it as a college football fan who didn't share Dunnavant's perspective, though, the book gets pretty tiresome. First, part of Dunnavant's defense of Alabama is that George Wallace started out relatively liberal on matters of race, but moved more segregationist when he found it more politically expedient to do so. I'm confused as to how this is actually a defense for two reasons. First, it suggests that Wallace's ideas on the matters of race were not strongly held principles in favor of something akin to color-blindness, but instead were subject instead to political expediency. Second, it suggests that the problem was not George Wallace, but Alabamians in general. This, in my mind, makes the case Dunnavant is trying to make weaker, not stronger, since it suggests that Wallace is not an aberration whose faults should not be reflected upon the whole, but instead emblematic of a greater political problem.

Second, one of the demerits against Alabama was a relatively weak non-conference schedule. Their first game was a home game against a mediocre Louisiana Tech team. Dunnavant tells us that Alabama attempted to schedule a stronger team, but that they didn't want to visit Alabama because of the political climate, leaving LaTech as the best available option. Now, maybe I've been too acclimated to some crazy ideas, but a simple solution suggested itself: Alabama should travel to those schools instead, rather than them traveling to Alabama. Alas, this option is not considered in the book. And that apparent failure to consider other options was apparently a trend of Alabama football. After a 1946 visit to Boston College, Alabama did not play another game outside the old Confederacy until a return visit to Southern Cal in 1970.

Third, Dunnavant tells us that when Alabama integrated the team after the 1966 season, there were no difficulties. Fine, that's good. In fact, since Bear Bryant comes across in the book as only slightly removed from God, but much more present, and Bear said don't treat the black players any differently, that's just what we should expect. This also is only tangential to the story of "Alabama got screwed in 1966." In fact, Dunnavant tells us that Bryant when he was coaching at Kentucky wanted to integrate the team so that they could be more competitive, a decision rejected by the athletic director. Given his god-like status in Alabama, he could have broken the color barrier before 1966, chose not to, a decision that his Kentucky experience suggests was made in part because he thought he could win with an all-white team. Bear was thus (a) cowed by the segregationist attitudes of Alabamians and/or (b) didn't really think integration was a big deal.

Fourth, both of Alabama's previous championships, in both 1964 and 1965, were tainted. In 1964, Alabama had an undefeated regular season, then lost in the Orange Bowl to 9-1 Texas. Meanwhile, #2 Arkansas, which had beaten Texas and was also undefeated, won the Orange Bowl over Nebraska. Under a post-bowl voting system not then in place, Alabama finishes no higher than 3rd. Alas, the final AP poll was taken after the regular season and before the bowls, so Alabama finished #1.

In 1965, though, the AP made a change, and the final poll was taken after the bowls. Alabama that year had an 8-1-1 regular season, with a loss to a Georgia team that finished 6-4 and a tie against an 8-1-2 Tennessee team. In the final pre-bowl poll, Alabama was #4, behind undefeated Michigan State, Arkansas, and Nebraska. Alabama beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, though, while Arkansas lost to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and Michigan State lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl. The AP Poll reacted in its natural fashion, placing greater weight on recent losses than on a team's corpus of work over the entire year, and boosted Alabama to #1, over three teams with a better record.

Had the pre-/post-bowl order been reversed in 1964 and 1965, Alabama would have won 0 national championships. Had polling taken place only either the bowls or before the bowls, Alabama would have won 1 national championship. Alabama, I believe, deserved, no more than 1 national championship from 1964 and 1965. That they won 2 is by far a greater injustice than anything that happened to a 1966 team which had at best an arguable claim.

Notwithstanding my criticism of the book's thesis, the book is well done, and didn't dissuade me from looking to read Dunnavant's The Fifty-Year Seduction, on college football's relationship with television, even though I suspect I'll disagree with his thesis there just as strongly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Upon Further Review: IND@TEN Offense

This past Sunday, the Titans lost to the Colts, 22-20. What you see here is a breakdown of each Titans offensive play during the game.

The whole game is now up.

T231102-TE Strong, 2-WR WeakRun2WhiteCutback
It looked like there was a little bit of a cutback lane here for White, but it closed rapidly. The type of run typically called "blah, short run up middle."
T2528Shotgun BaseRun1WhiteRead Option
Freeney's coming from the outside, so VY correctly hands off to White up the middle. The blocking here appears to be that Bell is supposed to rub Brock out of the play, handing him off to Roos (left unoccupied by Freeney's move outside), and then get to the second level. Brock makes a good play to spin off of Bell's block inside and fill the gap.
T26373-WR, Slot WeakPass10MouldsComeback
The Colts rush 6, but VY stands tall in the pocket and throws outside to Moulds just past the sticks for a first down. A nice throw and catch to keep a drive alive. (CA)
T36110I-Form, 3-WRRun11WhiteIso
The difference between the Jags and the Colts: the Titans spread the Colts out here, and the Colts still have 7 guys in the box. That's one man on the three guys outside and one safety outside the picture. You play that way against a team where you want to force them to pass. Olson has a great play here to get off the first guy and get to the second level and force Brackett out of the way, creating the running room for White.
T47110Shotgun BaseRun5WhiteStretch
This starts as a 4-WR look, but Scaife moves into an H-back slot over Stewart after the Colts come out with 6 in the box. Ben Troupe is in the slot to the left. I think the play is supposed to be a stretch, but the stretch is an odd play to run against Dwight Freeney constantly spinning outside, and turns into a cutback, where White is able to find some decent yardage.
I4825Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun3BrownRead Option
Brown and White are the split backs, and White's acting as the lead blocker here. Brown has a cutback lane, but it's occupied by Bob Sanders, who's able to bring him down after a short gain. Note: presence of safety near line of scrimmage. Go back to the Jaguars game and see how often that was the case. Hint: not very. Brown may get a little bit better gain here if he does a better job of attacking the hole.
The Titans start out in 4-WR, but they move Davis from slot left toward the formation as they snap it. Also, Bob Sanders walks down to make it 6 in the box not including Davis's defender. Plus, this looks like vintage Chris Brown in 3&short, simply not able to generate the power he needs to get that extra yard.
I4441I-Form, 3-WRRun0BrownIso
Fisher elects to go for it on 4&short from the Colts side of the field, a decision I liked when he made it. I didn't really like the playcall, though. Your best offensive player is a mobile QB, your opponent is keying the run, and you do this stupid "contest of wills" thing with your offensive line from a non-power set using a back whose skill is not power. Ugh. 8 defenders > 6 blocks, ergo play fails.
Drive Notes: Downs, 0-0, 1Q 10:34. Too much of White, too much of what I don't like about Brown, not enough passing (7 runs, 1 pass), too much assuming what worked last week will automatically work this week. Aside from that, great drive!
Spread 'em out, and hit 'em with a quick pass. Jennings can't make the quick tackle and the Titans have 2nd and short. After seeing 1 more in the box, the Titans try to spread the Colts defense out by throwing outside. Act, react, and re-react. (CA)
I won't be too critical of cutback runs that net a first down. The Colts did a good job to close this apparent hole quickly.
VY fakes the read option, and dumps it short to Davis the opposite side as the fake. A nifty little play to get Davis the ball in space. Note what the Colts didn't really bring an extra safety down into the box this time, but were playing the defenders over the slot WRs shaded inside toward the tackle box, allowing them to flow quickly towards any cutback runs or whatnot. (CA)
I4122Weak I, 2-WR WeakPenalty-5BellFalse Start
I46272-TE, 3-WRPassIncScaifeMiddle Screen
Weird formation for the Titans, with an empty backfield yet 2 TEs. The pass is a middle screen for Scaife, but VY throws it behind him, pretty much right at the LB. Bell thankfully has enough presence of mind to bat the ball down and do his part to prevent an interception. Maybe Scaife didn't quite run the route the right way, but (IN) is the only grade I can give on such a simple pass here.
I4637Shotgun BasePass0YoungSack
VY drops back, looks to pass, runs up the middle to try to use the O-lineman to block out Bob Sanders, who's spying. I have no idea whether this was a good play or not, as I can't see any of the WRs at all. (SCR) is the only grade I can give.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-6, 1Q 5:55. All-22 film, please, so I can figure out what happened. Do it after the season is over, that's fine. I'll pay at least $30 a game.
T33110Weak IPass48R. WilliamsOut & Up
Deep drop, a good pocket, VY pumps once, and hits Roydell Williams wide open down the right sideline. Pass is on target, but a little late, allowing the Colts defenders to get there. A better throw yields a touchdown. (CA)
I19110Shotgun BaseRun6WhiteRead Option
Ok, the read option was cool at Texas and it was neat when the Titans first used it, primarily because of the Texas stuff, but now it just bores me. I'm seeing too much of it this game, even if this is a decent gain.
I1324Shotgun StrongRun1WhiteRead Option
Snore. Less room to run this time, so a RB who's Just A Guy gets what's there and no more.
I12334-WR ClosePassIncJonesOut
Normally you see flats and go's out of this formation, but it looks like short outs and deeper outs were the name of the game today. Jones runs a short out and VY throws the ball too far. (IN)
Drive Notes: FG, 3-6, 1Q 1:07. Throwing the ball down the field = good. Missing WRs in the red zone on third down = bad. Me uncreative.
T29110Shotgun StrongRun0BrownRead Option
Read option again. VY makes the right read. Colts with 7 in the box. Bell (-1) lets Reid go right by him, and Brown loses half a yard. When you block like that, you have no chance to run the ball successfully.
T29210Shotgun 4-WR ClosePass2BrownDumpoff
When you can't see more than 2 yards downfield, it's tough to say something intelligent. (CA)
T3138Shotgun 3-WR, 2-TEPass21YoungScramble
VY look, VY run, VY dodge tackler, VY need to learn to slide rather than take unnecessary hits. I (heart) VY. (SCR)
I48110Shotgun StrongRun5DavisReverse
Yes, it's an actual, honest-to-goodness reverse! A nice change of pace, though one that would be better if they actually had run the running play (read option off tackle) this game.
I4325Weak IRun0BrownIso
Blah, short run weak left side.
I4335Shotgun BasePass8MouldsComeback(?)
Jones(?) and Davis are stacked left. VY has enough time and finds Moulds to the right side just past the first down marker. 3rd down conversions = good. (CA)
I351103-WR, Slot StrongPass6JonesSitdown
A little quick pass to Jones, who gets a couple yards. Decent enough play. The Colts D here looked like what the Titans do against the Colts-run this when they're bunching the box against the spread and maybe you can break a big gainer. (CA)
I29242-TE Strong, 2-WR WeakRun9BrownCutback
This is a play for which I'd love to have an end zone angle. Brown has a nifty cutback through what may or may not be heavy traffic and rips off a good gain. White gets no more than 3 yards here.
I201103-WR, Slot StrongPassIncScaifeSitdown(?)
Scaife finds a slot and is wide open in the Colts zone about 10 yards downfield, and VY absolutely airmails the throw. Just terrible. VY HAS to be better than this. (IN)
I20210Split BacksRun2BrownIso
Pretty interesting setup here, with Hall and Brown in the backfield split way wide and Jones near to the weak left side. The run goes left side, and Brown should have a good gain but he's Chris Brown and is slowed up by the ankle enough to let the rest of the defense get there. When was the last time the Titans had a complete running back, who could run with speed and break through ankle tackles.. Lorenzo White, longer? Yeah, those guys are rare, and Brown, Henry, and White (to take the most recent guys) do have their strengths, but I want a back who can do it all. A winning lottery ticket wouldn't be so bad, either.
I1838Shotgun 4-WR ClosePassIncR. WilliamsCurl(?)
Roydell's about 7 yards downfield. VY throws for him, but misses badly. Hayden probably does a little bit of a takedown on Roydell, but the pass is bad enough it doesn't really matter. (IN)
Drive Notes: FG, 6-13, 2Q 4:28. Bad throws = dead drives. And both of the bad throws came when the difference between a good throw and a bad throw was the difference between a chance at 7 and getting 3. Bad QB play in the red zone kills your chances of winning, and VY did that here. Nice scramble to help get them down there, though.
T201103-WR, Slot WeakRun1BrownCutback
No cutback lane, so short run up middle.
T2129Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass7YoungScramble
VY quickly rolls to his left and keeps his head up looking downfield (good). Apparently seeing nothing, he takes off and gets out of bounds. Smart play in the two-minute drill. (SCR)
T28323-WR RightPass9R. WilliamsDrag(?)
Rollout, and the Titans try to create confusion by showing a 3-WR weak set. Roydell's open 7 yards downfield, and manages to get out of bounds. 3rd down conversions are good. (CA)
T371102-TE Strong, 2-WR WeakPassIncScaifePost
The Titans finally throw downfield, but not out of one of my preferred formations (though ISTR this is one they like to throw deep out of). The pass is batted away by S Bethea. More disconcerting is that Scaife and Troupe were both 20-25 yards downfield, close enough almost that one guy could cover both of them. That's probably not how the play was drawn up. (CA), for lack of a better read on the play.
T37210Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass7YoungScramble
VY rolls right, and is supposed to throw back for Brown on the screen, but he's covered. VY takes off and gets a shot by Hayden in bounds, then a hand to the face after he's out of bounds. Clearly should have been flagged, but it wasn't. VY takes offense, and tosses the ball right at Hayden. I don't care if he hit you and it should have been called. You HAVE to be smarter than this. This is a dumb, dumb, D U M, dumb play by VY and costs his team 15 yards. (SCR)
T29318Shotgun StrongPass8DavisDrag
Colts rush 4 and get pressure, mostly from the middle-left-ish. VY moves around and finds Davis on a crossing route, and he immediately gets popped by Jackson, well short of the first down.
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-13, 2Q 1:23. Bad throws from a QB kill drives, as we saw last time. QB stupidity also kills drives, as we see this time.
Bootleg action off the 2-TE set. Scaife is the short guy, and Troupe runs the deep pass about 16 yards downfield. Except VY throws it about 15 yards. Kinda tough to catch it when it hits the ground below your feet. Dierdorf gives Gary Brackett credit for getting in VY's way, but I don't really understand how. (IN)
T24210Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass26JonesPost
Jones lines up alone to the left. VY takes the snap and hits him over the middle about 15 yards downfield, with room to run. Nice play. (CA) VY takes a shot to the face from DT Eric Johnson here, so naturally there's a personal fould called. Ha ha, just kidding.
I50110Shotgun BaseRun12WhiteRead Option
Thank you, Bob Sanders. Sanders absolutely gives the Titans 10 yards here. The DE makes a wide turn, so VY hands off to White on a cutback run. It's Sanders' job to play the cutback lane, but when the DE went wide he crashed the middle of the line, filling a hole that wasn't even there and leaving the cutback wide open.
I38110Weak IPassIncR. Williams?
VY drops and tries to throw for Roydell, apparently, though his pass is deflected by DE Thomas well before it gets there. Stewart (-) was on Thomas and didn't handle him real well-VY was looking right and Thomas was able to spin out and really get in the way of VY's passing lane. (PR) since it was Stewart's failure, more than VY's release that was at fault here.
I38210Shotgun StrongRun0WhiteRead Option
The read option is designed to be a simple zone read running play. If the DE plays outside, run inside. If the DE plays inside, run outside. The previous run to White worked because the DE played outside and the player with contain, Sanders, went too far inside. This play fails because Sanders comes down late and plays outside of Freeney, forcing the inside handoff, which Freeney stuffs for no gain.
I38310Shotgun StrongPassIncDavisSkinny Post
The Colts bring pressure on the Titans-Mawae seems not to handle a blitzing Brackett well. White made the immediate read middle, leaving an unblocked Hayden coming in from outisde Stewart. VY has to throw under pressure, and makes a pretty good throw for Davis just past the first down marker. It's not a great throw, a little behind Davis, but it hits him in the face, which was about the only place VY could have put it and not hit a defender. It's not an easy catch, but it's a makeable one. Davis was coming out of his break and may not have been expecting the ball that early. From the Colts' lineup, though, a blitz was a real possibility, and he should have been ready for it. Not VY's fault this wasn't completed. (CA)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-19, 3Q 7:13. Two big gains, a 20+ passing play and a 10+ rushing play, but boom-and-bust offense busts before scoring position. Remember the cardinal rule of Vegas-you'll go broke before the house will. Fisher punts, which he maybe doesn't do if the Titans pick up a couple yards and set up 4&medium or short, but it works out pretty well, as Hentrich's punt is downed at the 1.
I15110Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun8WhiteRead Option
Some nice trap action off the read option, with Brown running the outside play to keep Sanders to the left side. Freeney is blocked this time, and there's a good lane for White to scoot through. If you're tired of me not praising White, I will say that he at least runs forward through a hole that's there instead of waiting for another one to appear on this play. This is, at least, a sign of non-total incompetence as an NFL RB.
I722I-Form, 3-WRRun4WhiteIso
This is a simple read-and-react I-formation iso running play. It works because Olson and Bell are able to get through to the second level and prevent the linebackers from filling the hole. White again is also not totally incompetent and runs forward. After the play, Greg Gumbel tells us KVB was in on the play as the lead blockers. Funny, all this time I thought KVB was white. The camera guy, validating my hypothesis that the camera guys and/or directors think the announcers are blowhard idiots, immediately shows a shot of KVB, sitting on the bench, with his helmet off.
I31G2-TE Strong, Weak IRun3-TDWhiteCutback
Ah, this is how a cutback run is supposed to work. The Colts flow to the left side, as the play is clearly going that way, but White cuts it back to the right. Sanders can't get back over in time, and Bethea can't make the play. Bethea is the guy most at fault here-I'm not sure why he wasn't there to tackle White. Maybe he's worried about a VY run, or getting caught up in trash, but I don't think that's really much of an excuse.
Drive Notes: TD, 13-19, 3Q 4:58. The Titans get the ball in excellent field position after the Finnegan interception and are able to convert.
T24110Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun-1BrownRead Option
LenDale White is a terrible lead blocker. He betrays where this play is going and then makes a terrible attempt at a block on this play. I know you have to give the ball to Brown once in a while when you have both guys in the backfield at once, but please don't do so in a way that means you're running behind him.
T23211Shotgun BasePass-2+FumbleDavisSwing
The pass isn't fast enough to be a smoke, and it's not really a quick hitch. Instead, Davis runs a little bit of an out right, so it looks almost like a swing from the slot. He takes a good pop from Kelvin Hayden, and the ball immediately pops out. I don't really get this play-the Colts had two guys right there, and Davis had no room to run.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 13-22, 4Q 14:02. Turnovers deep inside your own field are bad, mmkay? No, Vinatieri missing the ensuing FG does not make this OK.
T26110Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass-7YoungSack
It's not that I don't like LenDale White; I just don't think he's very good. White has a blitzing Sanders here, but Sanders comes in low and drives White, who outweighs him by 40? pounds into where VY is standing. Full blame doesn't go to Sanders here, as Bell is also being driven back, but White deserves more of the blame here. VY scrambles to his left, and Sanders is able to release off White and eventually be the one to bring down VY here. VY's only visible option was Brown out of the backfield, which may or may not have been remotely possible when the pressure got to him. Without all-22, I have no clue what was or wasn't available downfield. VY really should have thrown this away after he scrambled. (.5 PR, .5 BR)
T19217I-Form, 3-WRPass10GageQuick Hitch
This play looks a little like the pass to Davis on the fumble, only better designed-a quicker throw, less swing action, a little more space in the formation, and Gage is able to find a lane and pick up a nice gain to set up 3&medium-long instead of &pretty long. (CA)
T2937Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPassIncGageOut(?)
T2937Penalty24IND-BetheaPass Interference
The Colts come with some pressure, but VY rolls behind a wide pocket and throws about 25 yards downfield for Gage. Bethea's not paying too much attention and runs into Gage while the ball is on the way, easily drawing a flag. (CA)
I47110Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun13BrownRead Option
I swear, I didn't have this play in mind when I wrote my earlier comment about having Brown run in a place where it didn't matter if White actually blocked anybody. Norm Chow takes my advice and it's a nice cutback play. Brown helps sell this play by taking a big stride toward the left, forcing Brackett, who, as he should have been, was shading, towards the middle and setting up a big hole. He runs forward (yes!) and rips off a nice gain.
I341102-TE Strong, 2-WR WeakRun3WhiteCutback
Blah, short run up middle.
I31273-WR, Slot StrongPass8ScaifeStop
Scaife lines up way outside to the right, runs 8 yards downfield, and catches the ball. A very good throw by VY and the sort of playcall designed to help spread out a defense. I'm not sure, though, that Scaife is that great a concern split out to the far side-it's simply too far to set up a running play. (CA)
I231103-WR, Slot StrongRun2WhiteIso
Blah, short run left side.
I21282-TE Strong, 2-WR WeakRun4WhiteCutback
Blah, short run up middle. I can't only write three sentences about every play. Or can I?
I1734Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass10JonesOut
The Colts bring pressure here-a sort of long, looping outside rush by Freeney, who's bearing down VY. Who still has time enough to put one out there for Jones to make a play on. Which he does, successfully, for a much-needed first down. (CA)
I71GWeak I, 2-WR WeakRun3BrownIso
Short run up the middle.
I42G2-TE Strong, 2-WR WeakRun3BrownIso
Blah, short run right side. The nice thing about this is that even though it's a goal-to-go situation, Brown is in the game. And what he's doing is just running forward, trying to get as many yards as he can and trusting the holes will be there or he'll be able to run forward anyway. I hope you were watching these plays, LenDale, since that's why you're not in the game.
I13GShotgun 4-WR, 3-WR WeakPass1-TDR. WilliamsOut
Lined up toward the right hash, and Roydell is the guy out left. Way left. VY makes a great, solid throw-this isn't quite a rocket, but it's a good, hard throw, that goes right past DB Tim Jennings, where no defender can make a play on it yet Roydell can snag it. It's easy to be happy about a nice conversion on 3&goal. (DO)
Drive Notes: TD, 20-22, 4Q 6:02. Great result for the drive. The bad thing, though, is that it took 6:24, more than half the time remaining. A quicker drive means the Titans may be able to get two chances to outscore the Colts by 2+ the rest of the game, instead of the 1 they did get. Yes, I am a killjoy.
T20110Shotgun BasePass-5YoungSack
Ok, this is (a) a terrible play, (b) a lousy play, or (c) a really bad play. It's tough, emotionally, to fault VY here-he sees pressure, and elects to take off, as he's done so many times and so successfully before. Except, this time, it doesn't work, as Bob Sanders is able to take him down from behind. From 20-20 hindsight, he should have thrown the ball away once he broke the pocket, or at least when he first felt Sanders come down on his legs. (.5 PR, .5 BR)
T15215Shotgun StrongPass6JonesDrag
VY here takes what was probably the best available option, Jones on a drag route heading near the sidelines for just a short gain. Except as he's running toward the sidelines, Jones gets popped by Tim Jennings, who probably sways the official on a tough call and gets the clock to be wound, costing the Titans perhaps :20. The timing here stinks-the Titans had a TO left on this drive, and probably should have used it after the sack or after this play, just to collect themselves and be ready. As was, they end up not using it at all, when :15 or :20 extra could have been very valuable. (CA)
T2139Shotgun BasePass12YoungScramble
And people revert to type when under pressure. And VY's type is a scrambling quarterback. He takes a quick read here, doesn't see anything open but the right side of the field and takes off. LB Hagler is at the first down line and doesn't even make a move on VY, apparently fearful of giving up the huge play and basically conceding both the first down and the sidelines. "Fear will keep them in line. Fear of this quarterback running." I guess it beats being the NFL equivalent of posterized, as happened to Will Demps of the Giants last year. (SCR)
T33110Shotgun StrongPass14R. WilliamsComeback
The Colts really bring a lot of guys here, not your normal non-pressure defense. VY is able to stand tall in the pocket and hits Roydell on the sidelines for a nice gain. Great play. (DO) is inflated, but I don't feel too bad, as VY has made some nice plays and good reads today.
T47110Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass6YoungScramble
VY with a quick rollout here, probably designed. This is almost a 2-read, then go play. VY takes off and picks up some yards before smarly stepping out of bounds. If it's earlier in the game, he probably tries for extra yards, but getting OOB here is more valuable. (SCR)
I4724Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPassIncJonesComeback
Looks like about the same play as the pass to Roydell, only not as much pressure and this time the throw is a little bit too far back. It looked like Jennings may have had a hand on Jones a little early, but no flag comes out and that's the right call. (IN)
I4734Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPassIncJonesIn
Jones runs an 8 yard in, VY hits him with the pass, and he drops it. No two ways about this one. Not a hard throw to make, and the pass hits him in the friggin' hands. Bad Brandon, bad Brandon. (CA)
I4744Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass-6YoungPrayer
Would you believe my DVR recording cuts off right as Mawae is about to snap the ball here? Yup, perfect timing. Since we didn't see anything downfield at all, I have no idea what to write about this play. VY tried as best he could to make a play, I have no idea what, if anything, he could have done better, and I'm not about to give him a bad grade on a failed play for trying to make something happen.
Drive Notes: End of game, 20-22, 4Q end. Awful time management here early in the drive, and it's disappointing to walk out of the game with one timeout, when it's worth nothing. Credit to the Colts for bringing pressure rather than just rushing 3 and sitting back in coverage.

UPDATE (10/3, 2340 CT): Whole game up. Pass chart and whatnot coming soon.

Content Update

UFR is coming tomorrow. A DVR is nice, but it skips, so using it for the game charting and UFR actually is annoying. I'd rather do it with the VCR, but, alas, this week is the week the DVR worked and the VCR didn't, the contrast to last week. Snore. I don't get ESPN right now, but do have a tech coming out this weekend so I can watch MNF. I also have a book review to write, and that should be up sooner rather than later. I'll probably forgo what I watched last week w/r/t college football, and naturally no post, either here or at Total Titans, on what I thought of Tennessee's 22-20 loss to the Colts last Sunday. In case you can't tell, I'm thrilled to be here, and I'm sure you are too.. Remember to trip your waitresses.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Intellectual Arrogance

Or, Being a Snarky Blogger

I read something recently where somebody was comparing the management styles of football teams as opposed to baseball teams. Football teams, as the story went, were owned largely by families, who were less likely to be enthralled by former players and were more likely to look at factors other than whether somebody "played the game the right way." Thus, such idiocies never came to dominate the NFL the way they had MLB. I have no idea if there's really any truth to this, but it's a nice little story.

That brings me to my actual point. While football players may be good football players and enjoyable to watch and analyze, that doesn't mean they actually know very much about the game. And, alas, the Titans have provided two recent examples of this.

The first was uttered by Vince Young. Jeff Fisher made the unfathomably bold statement that the Titans would probably have to score more than 13 points to win this Sunday's game against the Colts, to which VY replied, "We scored 13 points against them the first game (last season) and almost won the game, so you never know what's going to happen on any given Sunday."

Now, thanks to the magic of the internet, we can see how many points the Colts have scored in each game lately, to see whether we should expect the Titans to have a decent chance at winning if they only score 13 points. In 2007, the Colts have played one game, and scored more than 13 points. In 2006, the Colts played 20 games between the regular season and the playoffs, and scored more than 13 in every single one of them. In 2005, the Colts played 17 games and scored more than 13 points in 14 of them, with one of those games being after they had already clinched home-field. By the way, the Colts won both of those games where they scored <14 points and the result mattered. In 2004, the Colts played 18 games and scored more than 13 points in 17 of them, the lone exception being the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. In 2003, the Colts played 19 games and scored more than 13 points in 18 of them (they also won the game where they scored fewer than 14). So, over the past 4+ seasons, the Colts have played 74 games and scored 13 or fewer points a grand total of 5 times. If the Titans want to win Sunday's game, and I really hope they do, they will almost certainly have to score more than 13 points.

Our second moment of brilliance came from the mouth of Kyle Vanden Bosch, who noted in commenting on Sunday's game that, "With few exceptions, there is a magic formula in the league[.] If you can stop the run and you can move the ball well on the ground, you're going to win more games than you are going to lose." This is a popular idea, but also a very silly one. In fact, teams run the ball when they win, not win when they run the ball. If there is a magic formula for success in the NFL, then with few exceptions, it's (1) passing the ball and (2) defending the pass.

Thankfully, neither VY nor KVB is in charge of game strategy. Coach Fisher well knows that if the Titans score 13 points against the Colts, they'll almost certainly lose. I certainly hope VY will try to improve throwing the ball from last week's performance, and won't try to score just 13 points and win the game that way. I certainly hope KVB won't only try on rushing downs and slow down when rushing the passer. In fact, I'm loath to even suggest these things, because they're inconceivable. VY and KVB are both fine football players, who would almost certainly be key components of any Titans win this Sunday. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're saying something intelligent about football when their lips are moving.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Upon Further Review: TEN@JAX Offense

On Sunday, the Titans defeated the Jaguars, 13-10 to win their opening game in the 2007 regular season. What's below is a breakdown of each Titans play during that game. Below that are some additional comments on some of the Titans' players and the overall offensive performance.

T42110Shotgun Split Backs, Slot RightRun-5YoungQB Sweep
CBS is already in midseason form, and it's only the first play! Yes, they missed the snap. I have no idea who's in the slot to the right, or even if it's truly a WR or instead Scaife flexed out a little. Thankfully, this is the first play of the game, so I have the starting lineup from NFL Gamebook to tell me that's actually Scaife, with White and Brown in the backfield. VY fakes the counter-trap, and then tries an outside run in the direction of the sweep. Alas, Stewart (-1) is supposed to have the contain on DE Hayward, and he doesn't, so VY goes down for a 5 yard loss. Note this play is listed in the official PBP as a "scramble," implying VY is going to pass. I'm pretty sure this is wrong, though, because Bell or Mawae moves downfield to block immediately after the snap, and if this were a pass that'd be a penalty for ineligible man downfield. The playcall is a mildly interesting variant of the normal shotgun read-option VY ran so well at Texas that was generally successful in the first Colts game last year and in the ensuing weeks largely disappeared from the Titans' playbook.
T37215Shotgun 3-WR, 2-TEPass6HallSitdown
Yes, you read that formation correctly. Hall is split wide to the left side. The Jags blitz 6 against 5 Titan blockers, so VY hits Hall on the far side of the field. Williams was playing WAY off, like 10 yards, and didn't close immediately so it's an easy pitch and catch. It would be nice to see Hall pick up more YAC, though. (CA)
T4339Shotgun StrongPass8WhiteDumpoff
This is pretty disappointing blocking. The Jags only rush 3 and drop 8 into coverage. The Titans initially keep Scaife and White both in to block, so it's 7 to block 3 and 8 to cover 3. Kinda tough to complete a pass that way. More disappointing is that Stroud runs a little bit of a stunt and Bell (-1) can't handle him, forcing VY to act before he probably wanted to. Decent enough throw to White a grand total of 0 yards downfield. White does his stupid stutter-step he does looking for a way to avoid contact and kind of dives forward and comes up a yard short rather than try to run through tackles and get the first down. This may be wise for his career longevity, except that if you won't gain those yards you're not going to have that long of a career anyway. (CA)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 1Q 12:54. The Titans start with good field position after a nice kickoff return by Griffin, and do nothing with it. Maybe this is 20-20 hindsight from the rest of the game, but I'm surprised the Titans didn't call any straight running plays here.
T21110Shotgun BaseRun0WhiteRead Option
Kind of an off tackle run off the sweep to the short right side. And, since there's no misdirection here, the Jags are able to flow to the side pretty easily and shut down this run for no gain.
T22210I-Form, 3-WRRun6WhiteBlast
T22210Penalty15JAX-StroudFace Mask
I'm going to stop using "iso" to refer to runs where I don't have an obvious call. This is therefore a "blast." It's a classic I-formation run up the middle. It works because the Jags have 6 guys in the box, there's a blocker for all 6 guys, and everybody does their job. Stroud is able to tackle White while being blocked, but to do that he has to take him down by his face mask, adding the extra 15.
T42110Strong IRun19JonesReverse
It's an actual, honest-to-goodness reverse! Yay, the play dubbed a "reverse" by most commentators is actually an "end-around," since there's no actual reversal of direction. Here, though, VY fakes the handoff to White strong side, and bootlegs to the left, before handing it off to Jones running the other way. VY gets popped by Sensabaugh right after making the handoff, but stands tall, makes the good handoff, and doesn't get blown back into Jones (+1). Once he gets around the corner, Jones has lanes to run through and picks up a few yards.
J39110I-FormationRun2WhiteOff Tackle
Basic I-formation off tackle run. Stroud makes a great play here-he gets a chip from Olson, but runs down the line of scrimmage all the way to the hole off Roos on the other side of the line and almost beats White to the hole. Great individual effort. I'm not trying to rip on White because I don't like him; I just don't think he's that good, and this is one of the reasons why. Stroud's a good player, but you as a running back should be able to outrun him.
J3728Trips RightRun5WhiteCutback
Trips are, unusually, 2-TE, 1-WR, viz. Hartsock, Scaife, and Moulds (I think). White gets a decent gain up the middle.
J3233Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass4YoungScramble
An "I (heart) VY" play. He looks around, notices the Jags dropped 7 into coverage against 3, and there's nobody keeping contain to the right side. He moves that direction, LB Mike Peterson is dropping into coverage to ensure some WR (presumably) is still covered, and basically concedes the first down. (SCR)
J281102-TE Strong, 2-WR WeakPass-3ScaifeScreen
Fake to the back, drop back, and set up the screen to Scaife on the right strong side. It's pretty well set up, too, with Olson out there to block, and Bell and Mawae heading downfield. Naturally, Olson (-1) can't prevent Smith from blowing up the play. (CA)
J31213Standard 2-TERun3WhiteOff Tackle
Off tackle run to the right side. If I wrote five lines on every play, I'd be here forever. If I was getting paid by somebody who wanted that, I'd do it. As is, I (a) have a job and (b) sleep, at least occasionally.
J2739Shotgun BasePass21ScaifeFlag
Scaife runs a corner route and Moulds, who's the WR on that side, runs an In to about where Scaife breaks out for the flag. Personally, I'm a fan of the good old post-corner route, forcing the safety to choose one or the other. VY's throw is slightly late here, but perfectly fine. John OfThe River challenges the catch, for no particularly good reason I can see. (CA)
J61GI-Form, 2-WR WeakRun1WhiteStretch
A decent run off tackle to the strong side. There's a hole there, but White hesitates, looking for a big lane or to run to the outside. The hole's there, take it for three yards. Because he waits, his opening closes and he doesn't get as much.
How to get White to run forward: don't give him any real options. No cutback or outside lane was apparent, so he had no choice but to run forward, which he generally does reasonably well. A 3 yard gain on 2&goal from the 5 isn't a bad play at all.
J23GShotgun StrongPassIncDavisOut and In
Eh, little to say about this key play. The big issue was the pressure by McCray, working against Roos (-1). He hit VY while throwing, forcing the bad pass. But, VY had a gaping hole up the middle and probably could easily have scored a TD with his feet. Split grade to reflect both problems. (.5 BR, .5 PR)
Drive Notes: FG, 3-0, 1Q 4:03. OK, I'll admit it, I like short drives because they're easy to chart.
Put a hat on a hat and run it up the middle. If you can get 5 yards doing this, it's a happy day. They could, and it was.
Stretch run to the strong left side. Mike Peterson makes a dive for Brown's ankles in the backfield, but no dice. Brown just follows his blockers here and turns it upfield before he gets to the sidelines. The spot appears to be pretty generous, as I thought Brown was at least half a yard short of the first down.
T301104-WR, 3-WR RightPass8DavisSmoke
Kind of a baby WR screen, as it's quick pass to Davis a couple yards in the backfield with the other two WRs to that side looking to block downfield for him. (CA) He gets to show off his PR skills and gets a good gain on first down.
T3822Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun4BrownRead Option
This is a read option on the defensive end to the Titans' left side. VY makes the proper read, and while there's not the room to the left you'd expect from a wide-rushing DE, Brown is able to find a hole up the middle and pick up the first down.
T421102-TE StrongPass8YoungScramble
VY shows boot action here, right into an unblocked Bobby McCray. Uh, that's bad. For most quarterbacks, at least, but this is not most quarterbacks. This is Vince Young, Shamer of Kiwanuka. He slips the tackle and takes off, picking up 8 yards. I (heart) VY. (SCR) For the record, I think it was Scaife's job to pick up McCray, and he's late getting over. (-1)
5022I-Form, 3-WRPass17GageSmoke
Quick pass to Gage, who's in the slot to the right side. The Jags LB (Thomas?) is playing more towards the middle, in run support, so he's not able to make the play. Moulds has a nice block on his man Mathis, and Gage has a good gain. (CA)
J33110I-Form, 3-WRRun24BrownIso
Wow, Mike Peterson makes a terrible read here. This is a run up the middle, but the footwork for VY is sort of counter-ish. Peterson is utterly confused and moved from his MLB spot to protect against a run off right tackle. He's terribly out of position for a run up the middle at left guard and Brown has the sort of lane you could drive a truck through. Not only that, but Jones is blocking Williams downfield and Brown makes a move to leave Sensabaugh grasping at air and picks up a dozen or so extra yards. A beautiful run, and the kind of play we didn't really see from Brown at all last year.
J91GI-Form, 2-WR WeakRun4WhiteOff Tackle
Off tackle run weak side. Henderson makes a dive as White as he's going by and takes him down. Isn't this the kind of tackle we saw bring down Brown too often last year? This is technically a successful play, but I don't like White here.
I actually like this play much better from White than the previous one. Here, it's the stretch play, and rather than try to run outside and hope the mess of guys there get blocked, White tries to find a lane between Henderson and Stroud. Stroud makes the tackle, but I do like to see running backs run the right direction (unless you're Barry Sanders, who could run wherever he pleased).
J53GShotgun BasePass4YoungScramble
VY looks, and takes off, what he should have done the previous 3&G play. Here, though, there are guys in the middle of the field, plus it looks like there's a spot to throw the ball to the WR at the top of the screen in the back corner of the end zone. I know, I hate the fade on 3rd down, but this is an In&Flag rather than a true fade. Still, I guess a run up the middle does get you closer on 4th down. (SCR) The ball comes out but is ruled dead before that happened. Nevertheless, that was a trend in VY's game I didn't like this year and I hoped ball security worries would disappear in the offseason.
Goalline = I-form, 3-TE. White gets tackled by Sensabaugh by the friggin' ankle, which is why I find it curious that we didn't see any of Chris Brown down by the goalline. I'm well aware of Brown's traditional struggles in that area, but White hasn't shown anything to me there either, and he has a quality I find ill-suited for running in close quarters, viz. an aversion to contact. This play also features an uncalled fumble forced when White was trying to dive forward for the end zone. The play is blown by an inadvertent whistle, and the potential long return would have been called back for being down by contact anyway, but that doesn't mean we can't hold White blameworthy for these errors.
Drive Notes: Downs, 3-7, 2Q 11:24. Um, ball security, guys? It didn't actually cost the Titans this time, but it will in the future, guaranteed. As mentioned above, I don't like seeing only White down by the goalline, particularly since Brown was the one who got you down there. Lack of passing downfield = bad. Also, 4 goal-to-go plays, and none designed to take advantage of VY's mobility, particularly the 4&G from the 1 play? I don't like that playcalling. As for Fisher's decision to go for it, I have no issues with the decision, just with the playcall.
T331104-WRRun1Whiteoff Tackle
Run through the hole, then hesitate and see where to go! Don't hesitate, then try running through the hole. Roos has a block, but White hesitates, closing down the hole and reducing the gain. Attack the hole!
T3429Shotgun 4-WR ClosePassINTMouldsDeep Out(?)
Where 4-WR includes Scaife. The pass is intended for Moulds, but it sails on VY. Mathis grabs it, and he has to jump for it, and he's a good 2 yards downfield of Moulds. Just a terrible throw by VY. (IN)
Drive Notes: Interception, 3-7, 2Q 7:48. The worst part about this is all the praise for Mathis after the INT. If VY had thrown the ball to Moulds, it's a completion and a first down. But he sails it over Moulds, and Mathis is the only one to come down with the ball.
T37110Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPassIncJonesDrag(?)
If you have no clue what route a player ran, just make something up! VY rolls out here, and throws for Jones wide open about 8 yards downfield. And totally airmails it. Just a terrible, terrible throw. How terrible was it? A diving Brian Williams had a good chance to catch it, and he was only about 9 yards further downfield than Jones. (IN)
T37210I-Form, 3-WRRun42BrownCutback
Hartsock is lined up as one of the WRs, in the slot to the right side. This isn't a really fancy play, I don't think, just a good cutback run. Mike Peterson overruns the play to the outside, creating a crease up the middle for Brown to drive a truck through. Brown again makes Sensabaugh look really silly, and this time picks up about 30 extra yards because of it. Not only that, Brown uses his arm to fend off CB Williams and picks up 10 yards because of it.
VY drops back, takes a look around, and dumps it to Brown over the middle for a short gain. Peterson makes a nice tackle on the play. (CA)
J1827Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun6WhiteCounter Trap
A nicely designed play: VY moves right, then gives to White going the other way. White and Brown are the two RBs on this play, and Brown is downfield blocking for his backfield mate. Good gain to set up 3&short.
J1231I-Form, Standard 2-TERun2BrownStretch
It's a stretch play to the short side! Hall gets just enough of Cousin to give Brown some outside running room and he uses it to pick up the first down. Thanks to Norm Chow for (1) giving Brown some work on short yardage situations and (2) calling a play where what Brown does well is used.
J101GI-Form, 2-WR WeakRun3BrownStretch
Brown only gets 3 yards, but this is actually a pretty good job. The play is designed to go outside, but Roos doesn't do a good job on DE Spicer (-1), allowing him to get outside and forcing Brown to run up the middle. Brown snags a couple yards before being taken down by Peterson. A very good job to rescue a play that probably could have been a TD.
J72Gn/aPenalty-5TEN12 Men
Freakin' stupid, worthless penalty. It is, of course, impossible to tell whose fault this is. Chris Brown is angry when he heads toward the sideline after the previous play, but I don't know that it's him responsible for the play-he could just be mad that he could have had a TD.
J122GShotgun 3-WR, 2-TEPassIncScaifeFlat
Scaife runs a little flat route, and VY misses him about 3 yards downfield. Bad throw. (IN)
J123GShotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass-1WhiteDumpoff
A dumpoff to White in the left slat about 15 yards away from the goalline. VY didn't have to make this throw then, why didn't he wait longer and see if something, anything else developed? Normally I'd just call this CA, but on 3rd and goal you can't just take this play. (.5 BR, .5 CA)
Drive Notes: FG, 6-10, 2Q 0:43. Nice running by Chris Brown to get down the field. He even picked up a 3&1!
T491104-WR, 3-WR RightPass-4CollinsSack
Bunch right. The Jags rush 3, and eventually Peterson who was playing a bit of a spy role. This play should be a Haily, because that's all you can do with 0 TOs. Only Collins holds on to the ball forever, then tries to move around. Uh, Kerry, you're not VY. Without a view of the action downfield, who knows what really happened here.
Drive Notes: Half, 6-10, end 2Q.
T21110Shotgun Base?-7YoungFumble
Mawae with an uncharacteristically awful shotgun snap that totally blows up this play. My hope is that Mawae snapped it a little early explicitly to catch Henderson offside. But, as we saw in the Bears-Chargers game, even obvious offsides aren't always called.
T2615I-Form, 3-WRRun4BrownIso
I'm not sure what exactly this run is-maybe a cutback with a cutback lane outside instead of inside, or maybe a weird-looking counter play. Anyway, Brown runs left tackle and gets some decent yardage. He'd get more, but Brandon Jones can't escape the problem of outside positioning to block CB Brian Williams.
Line up and run forward at its finest. Brown hits a guy and slides off him, forward enough to get the first down.
T32110I-Form, 3-WRPassIncJonesComeback
Play-action, deep drop, and VY throws it too short for Jones on the comeback at the first down marker. Not one of VY's better throws. (IN)
T32210Shotgun BaseRun5YoungRead Option
T32210Penalty15JAX-CousinPF Face Mask
Classic read option action. VY fakes to the RB, and Hayward bites on it badly. Rather than turn it upfield, though, VY tries to pull a White and runs down the line and find a crease. Since he's the QB, I have greater appreciation for this decision, but it's still not a great one. He's able to dive forward for the same 5 or so yards he would have gotten without trying to run wide, but manages to pick up a first down on a face mask call. Chris Davis is toward where VY is running, but is pretty worthless as a blocker.
Poor, poor Mike Peterson. This just isn't his game-the Titans spread the Jaguars out and run Chris Brown. Peterson fills the hole where it looks like Brown will be running. But, no! It's a cutback run, and by now Peterson has been blocked by Bell and Brown has another hole can you drive a truck through. A prudent, wise team might have brought down its safeties by now, since the Titans have shown neither the inclination nor the ability at this point to throw the ball downfield and you maybe kinda sorta could use some run support. Nah, he's Jack OfThe River.
What's the definition of stupidity? How about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? See previous play, only this time Peterson is not in the hole he was, so Brown doesn't need to cut it back. Ha ha.
Aww, look at the Jaguars, finally putting a 6th guy in the box against 4-WR. The Jags react well to this play, taking away VY's two apparent pass options of the slot WRs right and left (Gage and Davis, respectively). Roos for some reason doesn't block to RDE, so after VY looks at his hot reads, he has no time and has to tuck the ball down and dive forward for a yard. (PR)
J2029Shotgun StrongRun6YoungQB Draw
Designed run for VY. Chris Davis didn't learn to block between the previous play where I wrote about his blocking and this one, else VY probably has a first down. This is something the play designed and VY should take into account, and I'm not sure if they did or not.
J1433Shotgun BasePass4MouldsCurl
Moulds lines up outside to the right and runs a little curl route just past the first down marker. After Davis the slot guy clears, VY throws the ball to Moulds. The throw is a little behind him, but not too bad. Moulds goes down and makes a good catch to keep the drive alive. (CA)
J10110Shotgun BaseRun6WhiteCounter Trap
Same play they ran earlier in the game, similar results for a good gain.
J424Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun2BrownIso
White and Brown in the backfield, and this time Brown gets the carry. This is closer to a 3 yard gain than 2 yards. They probably had given White the ball earlier because Brown is the better blocker. To avoid that problem, White is outside and runs to the outside, while Brown runs up the inside. If the Titans had another HB who could run and block, this would be a play with more possibilities.
J232Shotgun 4-WR, TEPass2YoungScramble
VY takes a look, then sees an opening up the middle and takes it. He kind of loses the ball as he crosses the goalline, but gets it back and it's a TD. (SCR)
Drive Notes: TD, 13-10, 3Q 0:59. Silly Jaguars, runs are for Titans. I might take a wild guess and say Mike Peterson isn't looking forward to a trip to Nashville on November 11.
T81103-WR, Slot StrongRun8BrownCutback
Love that cutback action this game. 6 in the box for the D, but 6 in the box for the O as well. Hayward and Peterson should have this play stopped, by Peterson pulls a Colts and runs too far outside, while Stewart gets to block Peterson.
T1622Standard 2-TERun11BrownStretch
Hey, it's a change from the cutback run! Well, kind of, as this play ends up working like a cutback, with Brown . . . cutting back! before he gets to the outside and finding a crease for good yardage. The Jags are pretty terrible when it comes to stopping Chris Brown today.
T27110Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun5BrownRead Option
VY makes the proper read, and Brown heads up the middle. He appears to be tiring a little from three straight runs, and doesn't show quite the same power and acceleration he did. Still, it's yet another good gain against a porous Jaguar run D.
T3225I-Form, 3-WRPass9GageSmoke
This is similar to the play that didn't work earlier, where VY tried to throw to Gage in the slot. Here, it seems to be a quicker decision and throw by VY and a little more space to run. Gage gets a good block from Moulds. (CA), though I considered Dead On and probably would have awarded it on a 3rd down play-it was a nicely thrown ball, well-positioned for Gage to pick up YAC.
T41110I-Form, 3-WRPassIncGageIn
Deep drop by VY and he throws for Gage on the in about 15 yards downfield. I think the pass is thrown too far ahead for Gage-it disappears completely off the TV screen en route to Gage, so I'm giving it an (IN).
Same play that worked earlier so well, only a couple things are different. First, the defenders covering the slot WRs are closer to the middle of the field. There's pretty much 7 in the box here. Second, the hole isn't as big, as Stewart doesn't have a great seal on Meier. Third, it's LenDale White, though his LenDale-ness isn't really that big a facotr on this play.
The Jags blitz with 7. Titans give VY some time to throw to his hit read, Moulds on a 5 yard in route. Only VY gets off a bad throw, at Moulds' feet. Mathis has pretty good coverage, Moulds can't go down and get the ball, and even if he does Mathis still tackles him short of the first down. (IN)
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-10, 4Q 8:16. Good runs = good yardage, bad throws = drive killers.
T28110I-Form, 3-WRRun8BrownCutback
Ok, there's a difference between "keeping contain" and "ridiculous overpursuit" and the Jags' left defensive end totally obliterates any distinction here. Brown has a gaping cutback lane, but, in addition to the DE overpursuing on VY, the 2 LBs both flowed way too far to the side, leaving Stewart with an easy contain. If you haven't gotten the idea yet Mike Peterson didn't have a great game, well, he did. Brown probably should have gotten a few more yards here; looking to avoid the hit by Reggie Nelson, he cuts right into Cousin.
T3622Standard 2-TERun13BrownStretch
Stretch run to the short right side. The Jags have 5 guys with the hands down, loaded to the Titans right, and when the play starts that direction the defense flows there, creating a good hole for Brown about right guard. Sensabaugh takes a terrible angle to the play and gives Brown about 8 extra yards, another great play from Gerald on the day.
T491104-WRRun13WhiteLeft Tackle
This was a banner play for Marcus Stroud. He gets beat by Olson at the point of attack and driven back and appears to give up on the play. He doesn't fight hard to run after Brown and gets in the way. If he can stand at the point of attack, this play probably isn't nearly as successful. Instead, his poor play gives the Titans a big gain.
J381103-WR, Slot StrongRun-1WhiteIso
Stroud does much better here than he did the previous play, pushing Olson back a yard and not giving White much space to run. The Jags' D-line overall does a much better job, and the LBs are able to pursuit the gaps. Since there's not a gap, White runs down the line looking for one rather than plowing into the line and getting two yards like Henry would have.
J392113-WR, Slot StrongRun-1YoungQB Draw
Keeper by VY here. It's probably intend to go off left tackle, but LB Smith is in good position and Brown can't get a seal on him. VY runs down the line looking for a lane to turn upfield, but is forced out of bounds by a diving CB Williams. Going out of bounds here is a really bad play by VY-the game has just gone under less than 5:00 to play, meaning going out of bounds stops the clock. A minute earlier and going OOB doesn't really matter, but here it's a lack of game situation awareness by a young QB.
J40312Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRPass-6YoungSack-Fumble
The Jags bring up defenders late and rush with an honest-to-goodness 8. The Titans have 3 receivers in the pattern, which means 7 blockers. Single coverage, DBs playing off, throw a quick pass to Davis in the slot and let him run for the first down. But VY doesn't take that and looks for a longer playdownfield. He rolls out to buy more time, but it hit from behind by Reggie Nelson, forcing a fumble. Better ball security, please. Moot point if VY throws the ball early to an open WR like he should have. (BR)
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-10, 4Q 4:18. Some good running plays, but the last two plays leave a very sour taste in my mouth. It would have been nice to run an extra 35 seconds off the clock, something the Titans could have done almost effortlessly. It also would have been nice to extend the lead from 3 to 6, as a long field goal would have done. By getting sacked like that rather than taking a short gain, VY doesn't even give Fisher any choices.
T27110I-Form, 3-WRRun7BrownIso
Basic I-formation run behind the fullback, this one to the left side. The Jags have figured out a little, playing 7 in the box, man over the 3 WRs, and only one safety deep. But if you get beat 1v1 like they did on this play, it doesn't matter that much.
T3423I-Form, 3-WRPass6JonesSmoke
One step drop, and a pass to Jones, the slot WR left, out of the same formation as the previous play. The Jaguar CBs are all playing off. Jones is able to sidestep Williams and dives forward for a 6 yard gain and a first down. A nice low-risk pass and a first down. (CA)
T40110Shotgun Split Backs, 3-WRRun6WhiteDraw Trap
This play looks for all the world like a pass, as VY almost surveys the field, then gives to White on the draw trap after the Jaguar pass rush is mostly well upfield. White does well and attacks a hole up the middle, dragging Peterson for about 4 extra yards. If White looked like this all the time, I'd be a happy man.
T46243-WR, Slot StrongRun3BrownCutback
Poor, poor Mike Peterson. The Titans have more fun with him this play, creating a crease for Brown up the middle; I know this play is officially only a 3 yard gain, but it's really more like 3.75 yards, leaving 3rd and less than a yard.
T49313-WR, Slot StrongRun6WhiteIso
7 in the box v. 6 blockers, should be a win for the Jags, right? Ixnay on the uffstay. Most of the OL blocks down, Hartsock blocks the DE on the right side. He gets pushed back, but the run's going left side. By blocking the DE, he also blocks the pursuit of the LOLB, who lined up on the line outside the DE. The other LBs, Smith and Peterson, immediately attack holes. Only because of Hartsock and the rest of the OL's blocking, Stewart is able to get a helmet on Peterson, preventing him from filling the hole. Smith, the other LB, had attacked outside LT, so he's out of position, and White finds a hole left guard that gives him the first down, and ends the game.
Drive Notes: End of game, 13-10, end 4Q. 2 QB kneeldowns after this play, but I don't chart those. For anybody who thinks John OfThe River is a good coach, the Jags' use of their timeouts on this drive is a good counter-example. The rule is that you should use your timeouts as soon as possible. Instead, he uses only one timeout before the two minute warning, and that a mere 23 seconds after the Titans snapped the ball to start the play. More intelligent time-out usage saves the Jags time and also simplifies the Titans' play-calling, making a pass less likely because of the clock penalty associated with an incomplete. An inability to stop the Titans when it counts, thanks to poor play by key players renders Del Rio's miscues moot, though.

And there you have it. A win, one driven primarily by the running game. Take a look at the pass chart, and this becomes pretty clear.

@ Jaguars010.56241.5

This isn't quite as bad as VY's effort in the game against the Jaguars in Nashville last year, but it's within striking distance. And it's not like the CA's came on decent throws downfield-the Titans only completed one pass that went more than 10 yards downfield through the air, and only tried about four times. They had great success running, but you can't expect to set a new franchise record every week. The (DO) grade (all zero of them) is largely a result of such short throws; most <10 yard throws simply aren't difficult I can justify awarding such a high grade.

As to the running backs, well, I heap abundant praise on one of them above, and say mixed things about the other, some good, but mostly bad. The former is Chris Brown, who looked better than he has since probably the early part of 2004. The latter is LenDale White. I'm trying to remain sanguine about Chris Brown, though, as I think he could get worn down pretty easily. After carrying three straight times in the fourth quarter, he really needed a breather. Watching him, I don't think he could have been stayed effective for more than two or three more carries. Part of this was probably the heat, but I think it's mostly a product of his running style and/or body type. Aside from White's seeming desire to avoid contact and be a finesse runner (scary words: Ron Dayne), he seems to have similar long-term effectiveness issues as Brown; I think a 15-15-type split between the two backs is probably ideal, though White's effectiveness seems just as scattershot with carries 14-18 as it does with carries 1-5, unlike Brown's.

The receivers were mostly decoys this game. Gage had two catches, while Moulds, Davis, and Jones had one each. The longest grab was Bo Scaife's first quarter catch, the one that was reviewed by the Jaguars. White also had two catches, neither interesting. Hall and Brown each had a catch to round out the completions. On a day where the passing game took a back seat to the running game, I don't have much to say about the pass catchers.

In the PBP breakdown, you'll see a couple (-1)'s and (+1)'s-these are points for blocking. I'm still working through how exactly I want to do this, so there's no summary here of those grades. I may revisit this in the future.

UPDATE (9/13 2310): Whole game up. Pass chart and additional comments to follow shortly.
UPDATE (9/13 2334): Pass chart and additional comments up.
UPDATE (9/14 0019): I have a post up on Total Titans about this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

DirecTV Sucks

Following up on my earlier post, I've just gotten off the phone with DirecTV and can tell you that unless you're a slavish NFL fan like I am, you should never order DirecTV. In fact, if I could get Sunday Ticket from anyone else, I probably would have canceled my service during that call.

This hasn't been a good month in my area of Chicagoland for having satellite TV; August was often rainy in the evening, and rain = no satellite service. Last night was another thrilling experience; some rain, some clouds, and ESPN was out, preventing me from watching EITHER of the Monday Night Football games. Tonight, I went to my DVR to re-watch the Titans-Jags game, to do the charting I do for Football Outsiders and Upon Further Review.

And when I press play, nothing happens. Black screen. I try fast-forwarding, and still black screen. The time bar isn't even moving. I try trouble-shooting. Unplug, plug it back in. No change. Reset the system. When it comes back, no change. Do some online searching-nothing seems clearly applicable. No help. I call DirecTV. They tell me to do what I've already done. I go through their prompts and manage to speak to a human maybe only about 15 minutes after I called; I know, that's practically instantaneous for a TV service provider, but it's like 10:15 at night. She tells me to do what I've already done; very helpful. No, my other DVR programs are working, both those taped before and after. No, I didn't tape two other things about the same time and inadvertently overwrite the order to tape the NFL game. They apparently had a problem with a black screen for some games--5 minutes on hold tells me Titans-Jags wasn't one of them. No known issues. But, that's ok, I flip down to Short Cuts and see the Titans-Jags game still has an airing to come.

That certainly seems like a simple solution. Sunday Ticket subscribers get a free preview of Short Cuts opening weekend, so I'll tape it off that and chart tomorrow. Except I try changing the channel and get a message that the channel isn't purchased. Customer service rep takes 10 minutes to figure out that (a) I'm not a SuperFan subscriber, (b) I'm not interesting in give DirecTV $99 to become a SuperFan subscriber, particularly given that they just screwed up, and (c) the free preview of SuperFan was only through the 10th. Fine, it's your problem, so just give me SuperFan for the rest of this week. Doesn't sound that hard to me. Alas, DirecTV isn't me. That's apparently WAY TOO HARD for DirecTV to do, to give me SuperFan for 8 hours, then cancel it. Instead, I can get Showtime free for 3 months (or maybe 4). I'll let you in on a secret: I moved this summer, so I had a free preview of Showtime. I think I watched 5 hours of Showtime in 3 months. Showtime sucks. Showtime doesn't solve my problem. I offered you a simple solution, one that would have kept me happy. And you say you can't do it, and offer me fucking Showtime instead? I'm sorry, but that's simply NOT ACCEPTABLE.

I know I've sung DirecTV's praises before, but that's because I haven't really had any problems aside from those nobody can control (viz., the weather). And that's not really a test of any organization's competence. What tells me something about an organization's competence is how they handle themselves when they have a problem. I had a problem tonight. They did nothing to solve it, and didn't take the simple solution I offered them.

DirecTV may seem like an attractive option, particularly if you're a Big 10 alum looking to get the Big Ten Network, and maybe they just have to be better than the cable company for people to go with them, but I cannot in good faith recommend their services to anybody. As an NFL die-hard, I have no choice (which is why DirecTV is paying the NFL so much money), but that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

Fortunately, I knew better than to assume some sort of overall competence from a television-services provider and set up my VCR to record the game, so UFR and the FO charting will be forthcoming. Not tonight, though, not tonight.


My DVR appears not to have record the Titans' game this past Sunday, despite what it says in My Playlist. UFR may be delayed. People may die. The former is certain, the latter merely an intense desire.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Thoughts on College Football: Week Two

See, as always, SMQ's more cogent and extensive thoughts. I saw more than I expected, but still not that much.

Louisville 58 Middle Tennessee State 42
Uh, Louisville has a good offense. And some defensive problems. I was mostly watching the Saints play the Colts, so I didn't see much of this game.

Rutgers 41 Navy 24
Another game I didn't see much of. Still, Ray Rice, 37 carries? Still in the game late in the 4th quarter, up 34-17? This is bad coaching by Schiano.

Nebraska 20 Wake Forest 17
I saw part of the fourth quarter of this game. Um, Nebraska's offense didn't look very effective. Their defense isn't bad, but nor is it particularly good. A Top 25 team, but closer to #25 than #10, I think.

Oregon 39 Michigan 7
Ha ha! Mike Hart is awesome; somebody, I think in one of the FO threads, said Michigan looked like a bunch of guys who could be playing for Purdue and also Mike Hart. This could be a really, really long year for the Wolverines.

Penn State 31 Notre Dame 10
When you're at a wedding reception that's about 75% Irish Catholic, this is the game you end up watching a lot of. Notre Dame's offense is absolutely DREADFUL. They don't have an offensive line. Or a running back. Or a quarterback. The defense isn't great, either. As to Penn State, I still have no confidence in Anthony Morelli.

Texas 31 TCU 10
I saw a little of this game, continuously mostly after the PSU-ND game was over, but bits and pieces of it before then. TCU didn't really do anything on offense the entire game-their TD came after a Colt McCoy turnover. I've fallen out of love with McCoy, mostly--his ceiling probably isn't as high as I thought it was, and he's more prone to errors than I thought he was last year. Still, he sometimes seem to have that indefinable "it" quality that separates very good quarterbacks who win games from, say, Chad Henne. I'm not sure he can overcome the specter of Mack Brown-ness like VY did, though.

LSU 48 Virginia Tech 7
Uh, I didn't see much of this game. It got ugly, early.

I can't wait for Saturday's Notre Dame-Michigan game. 0-2 v. 0-2 in the Craptastic Midwest Traditional Powers Regular-Season-Bowl!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Titans Week 1

I have some thoughts on the Titans' 13-10 win over the Jaguars today over at Total Titans.

Other content? UFR is coming in the next couple days, both for offense and for defense. More college football than expected was viewed over the weekend, and I'll probably post a few thoughts on the scholastic game goings-on over the weekend during the MNF double-header tomorrow. Posts on other subjects may come as and when I think of them; as with The Other Blog, I collect links and then don't post anything on them. A book review may also be coming this week.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Programming Update

I will be out of town tomorrow and not return until Sunday shortly before NFL kickoff time (I hope I'll be back then, at least). College football viewing, and thus, posting is unlikely. An NFL preview is dead out. I also hoped to write about NFL Network's new show on football strategy, Playbook. That's out as well. Content likely Sunday afternoon or evening, or at least a link to a game recap post on Total Titans.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Upon Further Review: GB@TEN Offense 1H

Last Thursday, the Titans defeated the Packers, 30-14, in their fourth and final preseason game for 2007. Since it's still the preseason, UFR is only offense, and only for Vince Young's series. Usually, for the fourth preseason game, this is about 10 plays, but this year it was the entire first half and two series into the second half, in part because VY sat out the first preseason game.

By this point, it's been several days since the Titans made the cuts to get down to the 53-man roster, but alas the game wasn't aired by the NFL Network until Sunday evening and other obligations have prevented me from starting this until now. The whole corpus of the first team offense's work is now up, with additional content to come later.

T151103-WR, Slot StrongPassIncJonesSlant
3-step drop for VY, and the slant to Jones, the sole man to the right side. I can't quite figure out why the timing is off on this play, as VY seems to put the pass right where he needs to. I suspect what happened is it took Jones longer than it should have coming out of his break and he thus wasn't quite ready for the pass. But, I'm not sure. (CA)
T152102-TE StrongRun1HenryCounter
Short run up the middle. DT Ryan Pickett, "blocked" by Olson, and other Packer D stand up well on this play. One thing the Packers did that seemed effective was bring down a safety to the strong (left) side late, creating 8 in the box and meaning the other defenders didn't have to bite as hard on the strong action and making the counter less effective.
T16293-WR, Slot StrongPass3MouldsComeback(?)
A familar play for Moulds, catching a 3 yard pass after a deep drop by the QB. This one is forced by pressure, something Moulds' QB was as familiar with in Houston as any observer of the Texans in their brief, largely unhappy history. The Packers brought a delayed blitz up the middle and VY got rid of this ball with a defender hanging on him. He did well to avoid the sack, and Moulds did well to come back and bail out his QB. Still, I can't help but think that VY should have done something with the ball before the delayed blitz got to him. All-22 would be lovely here, both for observing the protection and also whether there were any viable passing targets before the blitz forced the issue. (PR) is a grade somewhat reluctantly awarded, but the best I can do under the circumstances.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 1Q 11:45. If you can't pass and you can't run, you won't have long drives.
T19110I-FormationRun2WhiteRight Tackle
The Packers again bring down a safety to make it 8 in the box. And said safety fills the hole right tackle where the Titans' had drawn up the play to go. White does manage a cutback to right guard, as the play says, and manages a yard. Not a great way to start a drive.
T21283-WR, Slot StrongPass19WhiteScreen
For a screen, this is a little bit of a subtle one. I think VY had a deep read downfield, and the screen to White was the second option. It's a bit of a middle screen, and once one Packer defender is blocked there isn't another within 15 yards. (CA)
T40110Weak I, 2-TE StrongRun5WhiteCounter
Counter run to the strong side. The Packers have 8 in the box, but with a FB and 2 TE in the game, that's not a surprise. White runs through an ankle dive in the backfield and bounces off S Culver once before being dragged down after a nice little gain on first down. I know I've given White a lot of guff and little praise (c'mon, nobody touched him the previous play until he was 15 yards downfield), but this was good power running.
T45253-WR, Slot StrongRun12WhiteCutback
Same formation the Titans have been running a lot tonight, with a TE starting out RT weak and motioning to the strong side. White does his favorite move of running away from contact, cutting the right guard run back outside to the left. He finds some run after Scaife seals off the left end by holding. Oops. Of course, if White doesn't take down Kampman(?), this is probably a 2 yard gain.
T352152-TE StrongPass4YoungWaggle
Ah, I loves me some good waggle action. Scaife, playing the role often occupied by the FB from his H-back position, gets a block on Goodwell, who was in coverage preventing the throw to the TE, but releases it too soon, and VY's run is cut short a few yards shorter than it otherwise would have. Bad, bad Bo. (SCR)
T393113-WR, Slot StrongPass3JonesDrag
VY hits Jones on the drag route a yard downfield, and Jones is tackled shortly thereafter by Atari Bigby. Why you throw 1 yard downfield on 3&11 has frequently puzzled me, as it has many other fans. (CA)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 1Q 3:55. Holding penalties are good at killing drives. So is an inability to throw the ball, say, 5 yards, down the field effectively.
T421102-TE StrongRun1WhiteStretch
Stretch play strong left side, with a faked end around to Jones(?). Cole stands strong at the point of attack-it looks like White probably should have had more on this play.
T43293-WR, Slot StrongPass3MouldsCurl?
I don't understand. You go into a bit of a spread out formation, take a 7 step drop, and the 3 visible WRs are each 5 yards downfield. Hint: when I saw it looks like a play Moulds is familiar with from the Texans playbook, that's not a compliment. (CA) is the mandatory grade, but I absolutely hate that I can't distinguish for CA between seeing a short completion like this one and passing up this sort of completion for a decent throw to a receiver 12 yards downfield.
T46363-WR, Slot WeakPass5DavisOut
Davis moves right to left across the formation and almost ends up in a stack with the other WR. Davis runs about a 5 yard out pattern. VY throws it too him, but it's too far ahead. Davis has to make a diving catch and can't turn upfield to get the first down. (IN), and a bad one on what should be an easy throw.
G49413-WR, Slot WeakRun21WhiteStretch
A "heck, it's the preseason" call by Fisher-I doubt he goes for this when games actually count. The run goes right tackle, where the TE is. It looks like it's just a mass of people there, as all 11 Packer defenders were within striking distance of the line of scrimmage. A crack opens between Olson and Stewart after Bigby takes a poor angle to give White a running lane, and DB Walker appears to give him 5+ extra yards by trying to rip the ball away instead of just tackling the danged runner already.
G28110?Run1WhiteRight Tackle
Ah, I love missing the start of the play. Thanks, Titans broadcasters! Short run up the middle-ish.
G27293-WR, Slot WeakPass20JonesSkinny Post
This is a wider variant of the some formation they've been running most of the game, with both of the outside WRs outside the numbers. VY pump fakes right, then hits a sliding Jones 20 yards downfield on a skinny post. What the heck, I'm in a generous mood, and the pass was thrown ahead of the corner but not far enough ahead that the safety could challenge the throw, so (DO). I probably won't always be this generous, but good 20 yard completions aren't always easy to find.
G71GStandard 2-TERun1WhiteStretch
Stretch run right tackle. White cuts back up the middle. Rather than run behind the blocking and where the Packer D is flowing to, White cuts back to where the Packer defenders are. They thank him for not making them run so hard by tackling him so he doesn't have to run very far. How thoughtful. DE Cole in particular did a good job on this play.
G62GShotgun 4-WR ClosePass6-TDJonesSlant In
Jones lines up slot left and runs a quick 5 yard slant. VY holds this ball probably too long, moves a little bit in the pocket, then sets and hits Jones. The LB in coverage seemed to relax a second and when Jones moved to the Titans' right to snag VY's pass he was late following and Brandon had an easy YAC for TD. (CA), I guess, thanks to the positive result.
Drive Notes: TD, 7-7, 2Q 11:16. Two big plays: the 4th down conversion, and the pass downfield to Jones. VY giveth (the latter) and VY taketh away (the former, creating the 4th down). Drives that end in a TD are always better than those that don't, but I didn't see the type of consistently good plays that give me optimism for continued success in the season. See, e.g., Success Rate, as used by Football Outsiders. Eddie George in the booth is exasperating me with his praise for LenDale White. After this drive, White had 7 carries for 32 yards. Superficially, this is a fine almost 5 yard per carry average. This production is broken down into: 1 carry for 21 yards and 6 carries for 11 yards. Running for 2 yards consistently puts you in 3rd and long consistently. Being in 3rd and long consistently is not good for your offensive chances, unless you're Peyton Manning and the 2006 Colts.
This is the play-action bootleg + deep pass we've seen the Denver Broncos, in particular, use with so much success over the years (basically the same play as Jay Cutler's great throw last year), except Jones appears to run pretty much a go route, rather than a deep drag or flag. The pass is beyond him-I'm not quite sure what to make of this play, to be honest. The timing, as it seems to have been between Jones and VY all night, is just slightly off-not hugely so, but enough to disrupt potential completions and far from the Peyton-Marvin apparent mind-reading (I swear, I'm a Titans fan, not a Colts fan; I just have tremendous respect for Peyton and his great chemistry with Harrison in particular). Idiot Titan PBP guy: "Vince Young was forced out of the pocket" by pressure. Uh, dipnut, it's a !#%!#%@ bootleg. For the record, pressure on the play was applied by Larry Birdine, whom the Titans just added to the practice squad. (CA), I guess.
T46210Weak IRun9WhiteCutback
It's a right weak right, and White looks to cutback left, but Birdine is there. He goes right guard instead and finds a crease and picks up good yardage. Nice burst through the hole on this play by LenDale, something he also showed on the 21 yard run earlier that was more apparent on replays than the initial showing.
G4531I-Form, Standard 2-TERun6WhiteOff Tackle
Good run off left tackle for the Titans, well-blocked, particularly w/r/t getting the Packer LBs from getting to the hole, and White makes a guy's dive for his ankles miss at the hole. Nice 3rd down conversion.
G39110Weak IPass17MouldsDeep Out
Nice play here. VY gets good protection, stands tall in the pocket, and throws a strike to Moulds 17 yards downfield. (DO)
G22110I-FormationRun6BrownToss Right
Brown in the game at TB for a change of pace. He takes a toss from VY and runs right weak. The run is supposed to go RT, but there's no room there so Brown bounces it outside and gets a nice gain on first down.
G1624Weak IRun3BrownCutback
This is the same sort of run White had a few plays ago. There's not really a cutback lane left, but Brown takes this run right guard. Alas, then we see Chris Brown's limitations as a runner: he gets 3 yards downfield easily, but is too tall and can't generate the extra power needed to get the first down yardage. Still, 3&1 is better than 3&4.
G13312-TE StrongRun8BrownIso
Moulds goes in motion and is almost an H-back over the 2 TEs right. The run appears designed to go up the middle, but the right side of the Packer D has simply been pushed off the line of scrimmage, so Brown smartly runs there. Great blocking = easy running, and that's how you solve Chris Brown's only 3&1 problems.
G81G2-TE StrongPassIncJonesFade-ish
Similar formation to the last play, except Jones and Moulds are each a little farther out. It's kind of a fade stop, with Jones facing VY and going up for it. This lets DB Will Blackmon (a player I'd hoped the Titans would pick) get a hand up and bat the ball away. Note this play is distinguished from the true fade, as I think of it. A true fade would take advantage of Jones' outside positioning and be thrown with more of an arc than VY's pass here was. (CA)
G82GWeak IRun0WhiteCutback
White cuts back up the middle and finds no running room. Blah.
G83GShotgun 5-WRPass8-TDYoungScramble
The Titans come up with an I-formation look, but motion as VY moves up from under center to a pure spread look. VY apparently sees no attractive passing options (no, White standing along the sidelines at the 10 did not count), and takes off. White has a nice block, and VY stretches out with the ball and gets it into the end zone. (SCR) Mike McCarthy indicated during the post-game press conference he would have challenged this call of a TD during the regular season, and I think it's one he wins. Ah, well, too bad, so sad, still counts as 6 points.
Drive Notes: TD, 14-7, 2Q 5:27. Throwing the ball downfield successfully is a good thing. So is running the ball well consistently.
T431103-WR, Slot StrongRun2WhiteIso
Blah, short run up middle. I may be forced to rely on the Eddie George explanation that Fisher is testing White's conditioning, because otherwise snore on this play. If I thought higher of this play, I might call it a "cutback" since it looked like it might be going left tackle before White heads left guard.
T4528Weak IRun0WhiteOff Tackle
Blah, short run strong side. White slipped a little, and DL Ryan Pickett and Muir both did OK on this play in helping prevent the blocking from being better.
T45383-WR, Slot StrongPassIncMouldsPost
This is more of a close-in variant of the Titans' favorite formation tonight. VY throws downfield for Moulds on a post about 40 yards downfield. The pass is right on the money, but I'm only going to give it a (CA). First, it's close enough that DB Walker was able to make a great play on the ball. Second, VY's pass leads Moulds right into the safety; even if Walker doesn't make the play, it's quite possible the safety hit jars the ball loose anyway. Second, Moulds gets really pounded by the safety anyway. Maybe if Walker doesn't make the play and Moulds hangs on despite Culver's hit I'm more generous. I freely recognize and admit that's arbitrary and capricious. Hey, my system, my rules.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, 2Q 2:18. No success running + failed passing = short drive.
T27110Shotgun StrongPassFumbleYoungSack
Let me start off by noting Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon are calling this game for the Packers network, and they're wearing identical green polo shirts with white stripes. I don't pretend to be a clothes maven at all, but those things are hideous. Anyway, the play: deep drop, VY looks around, looks around, looks around. Decent protection, but Birdine keeps working and eventually gets around Roos and hits VY, forcing a fumble that Harrell manages to scoop up and take 18 yards for a TD. (BR) because I believe VY should have done something with this ball before Birdine got there.
Drive Notes: Fumble returned for TD, 14-14, 2Q 14:45. Turnovers inside your own red zone are bad, mmkay?
T201103-WR, Slot StrongRun3WhiteStretch
Fewer people at the line of scrimmage, more people shortly after the line of scrimmage. Short run right tackle.
T2327Strong IRun5WhiteCounter
Counter right tackle, and there's a hole there, but White doesn't appear to be showing the same burst through the hole he did earlier in the game and is brought down after a decent gain of 5 that should have been longer.
T2832Strong I, 2-WR WeakPass5HallFlat
Very simple play: Hall starts in his customary fullback spot, this time to the strong right side. Nobody covers him immediately, so VY smartly finds him for a short gain and, imporantly, the first down. (CA)
T331102-TE StrongPass11HartsockCheckdown
I'm not really sure how this play was designed. I think it was supposed to be a quick screen, but Hartsock blocked for what seemed like quite a while before VY threw the ball to him. The GB defense was at this point either all near White or in coverage downfield, so Hartsock had a good amount of space in which to run. Mawae looks like he may have been about 5 yards downfield when the pass is thrown; not sure, but if so that's something that really bugs me as a matter of principle. (CA)
T441102-TE StrongRun18DavisEnd Around
Davis starts off slot weak, then runs to the H-back position strong right normally occupied by one of the Titans' stouter blocking WRs (Moulds or Jones). At the snap, Davis runs the sort of loop behind VY and takes the handoff (which they'd faked to Jones, I think, earlier in the game). Davis shows off his PR-type skills to elude a couple potential tacklers about 8-12 yards downfield and has a nice gain.
G38110I-FormationRun1WhiteToss Left
A toss play works better with a quicker back. This play worked with Brown, and didn't work with White.
G3729Trips RightPass4MouldsSitdown
Moulds comes out of his trips slot and runs a little 4 yard sitdown route. VY quickly throws the ball to him. (CA) Not a glamorous play, but the ability to get 4 yards consistently is not one that should be forgotten. Of course, this play may also be used to set up a pump-and-go in Week 11.
G3335Shotgun BasePassIncScaifeDrag(?)
So, yeah, what's going on here? I'm not really sure. VY takes a look, doesn't see anything he likes and rolls out a little. He sees Scaife on the drag and throws one over his head. A better throw might have been ahead of Bo, but the LB did have pretty good coverage. Call it (.5 CA, .5 IN), a total cop-out call.
Drive Notes: FG, 17-14, 3Q 9:46. Bironas hits the figgie from 51 to give the Titans the lead again. It was good to move the ball down the field and get points after mediocre starting field position thanks to a kickoff. A much better way to send out the starters than the Titans' first "drive" of the second half.

Pass chart?

@ Pats012.54.5313
@ Bills114.51.5122
v Packers211.51.5121

Not a bad game against the Packers, with mostly perfectly adequate throws with only slight degree of difficulty. Preseason grades are mostly meaningless, in all honesty. The only thing I might be worried about is if the answer to "Did VY look terrible?" had been yes for longer than a quarter or so (the beginning of the Patriots game). Easy throws, vanilla offense, vanilla defense.

It seems like the Titans ran a whole passel of 3-WR sets this game, especially early in the game. I don't really expect that to be the case in the regular season, but suspect it may have been more a case of looking more at WRs in terms of playing time priority and cutdowns. From the WR perspective, Brandon Jones played a lot and seemed to be the primary target; projections of Roydell Williams as VY's main guy after the Buffalo game seem as misguided as I expected them to be.

Let me run some numbers by you: 1, 1, 3, 0, 3, 6, -1, 6, 2, 5, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 1. That's LenDale White's production on first down in the preseason. One thing I like about Football Outsiders is their running back success rate. Basically, a rush is considered a success if it gains enough yardage based on the down and distance. On first down, runs that get 40% of the way to the first down are successful. White in the preseason had 3 successful rushes on 16 carries, a poor 18.8% Success Rate. Yes, it's the preseason, but that's not a sustainable number in the regular season. That means a lot of 2nd and long, which means a lot of 3rd and long, which means a lot of ended drives. For the record, Brown's 1st down success rate was 52.6% on 19 attempts, Ganther's was 33.3% on 3 attempts, and Henry's was 23.1% on 13 attempts.

Real charting begins in earnest with Sunday's game against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. At least at the beginning of the year, I'll be playing this one by ear w/r/t timing. Offense will be up before defense, simply because I'm more used to doing offense. Maybe Wednesday first half, Thursday second half for offensse, followed by defense on Saturday morning. Depends in part on that whole "day job" thing. I'll figure something out.

UPDATE (9/5 0030 CT): Whole game now up. Introduction revised accordingly. I'm tired, so typos likely. Commitments tomorrow mean fixing and additions not likely until late, but I'll see what I can manage.
UPDATE (9/6 0110 CT): Pass chart and additional comments up. Any more content comes up in a new post. Total Titans post coming after I get some sleep, which may mean tomorrow morning or evening.