The Tennessee Titans were able to prevail against former head coach Jeff Fisher in yesterday’s victory over the St. Louis Rams, with the big storyline being the incredible performances put forth by both starting running backs. Rookie Zac Stacy had another monster game with 127 yards and two touchdowns, and the Rams would be wise to ride the Vanderbilt product’s legs for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Chris Johnson will look to build on this week’s huge game, as he put up 150 yards and two rushing touchdowns of his own in a vintage CJ2K display. Both players also made some plays in the passing game, as Johnson had three receptions and Stacy had a nifty six receptions for 51 yards.
Below are five Titans performances from Sunday in a brief review style.
1. WR Kendall Wright
Both Kendall Wright and Nate Washington have given Jake Locker two very good targets to throw it to this season, and it’s a joy watching just how versatile Wright is. While Washington had an awful game with goose eggs on four targets, Wright was easily the Titans most productive pass-catcher. In fact, he was the team’s only productive receiver with three receptions for 69 yards on five targets. Wright’s ability to move the chains in the slot and stretch the field on the outside (or stretch the field on the inside and move the chains while being split out wide) is impressive, because the ability to go inside and outside on the defense as a wide receiver is becoming a more valued asset in this league.
Almost all of Wright’s yardage came from one play (a 45-yard pass), but it was an excellent play in a game that had very few big plays in the passing game. Wright continues to be a weapon in the Titans offense, and his numbers will increase once Locker gets back on track following the injury. He was only targeted five times yesterday, as Locker spread the ball around by attempting passes to ten different receivers. In all honesty, I would like to see the Titans do a better job of focusing on getting the ball to their best players in the passing game, than rather have Locker throw the ball to less savory options.
2. QB Jake Locker
Locker had a nice scramble for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but he had a poor game overall. It seems like he still isn’t fully healthy after returning incredibly quickly from a significant hip injury, and he threw two interceptions without a passing touchdown against the Rams yesterday. Even though he averaged 8.4 yards per attempt and connected for a few big plays, Locker’s ESPN TQBR was at 32.5 and he was clearly off the pace. Locker consistently made poor decisions by making absolutely awful reads; he wouldn’t give the ball to the receivers who were the most open or had the best chance to make the play. He’s a talented quarterback who will bounce back, but hopefully he sheds the slump sooner rather than later.
3. DT Jurrell Casey
One of my favorite players since he came into this league, Jurrell Casey has done nothing but impress. The man is simply one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the NFL, and it’s about time he finally receive his due for pushing the pocket. The ever-underrated USC product recorded two sacks in the win, and he had six total tackles. He consistently put pressure on Kellen Clemens and made life rather difficult for the Rams interior of the offensive line.
4. Right side of the Titans offensive line
We knew the right side of the offensive line was going to suffer with dependable veteran right tackle David Stewart ruled out, but the guard and tackle duo on the right side performed even worse than expected. Mike Otto was pressed into the starting gig and received his first playing time of the season, and he was simply horrible. Otto was thoroughly manhandled by Chris Long all day. The stat sheet might not show it (Long had just one tackle and one QB hit), but Long was beating Otto with way too much ease over there on the right side of the Titans offensive line. Long is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and consistently puts pressure on the QB in most weeks, but you never want to see your right tackle get beat as often as Otto did; it just goes to show you just how important Stewart is. Meanwhile, veteran left tackle Michael Roos had a solid day, as he was able to contain beastly Rams DE Robert Quinn, who still caused trouble for the Titans overall.
Chance Warmack is going to be great one day, but that greatness probably won’t happen this season. He’s been getting better as the season goes on, but he’s still a liability in pass protection and was beat badly by Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford yesterday. Langford can be dominant at the point of attack at times, and he was dominant throughout yesterday’s game. He finished with a pair of sacks and a whopping total of four tackles for loss.
5. RB Chris Johnson
Although he benefited from some awful run defense and tackling by the St. Louis Rams defense (looking at you Rodney McLeod), Chris Johnson was simply sensational against the Rams. He caused many of those missed tackles with his always-captivating mix of speed and agility, and he’s as good as any back in this league when he’s at his best. Hopefully we get to see his best more often, because consistency is always a major criticism when it comes to Johnson. He finished with 170 total yards from scrimmage, two touchdowns, and lots of happy fans and fantasy owners after his thorough beating of the Rams defense. Game ball performance right there.