If like me you’ve been sleeping on the Tennessee Titans this season, it’s time to wake up. Are they a dominant team? No, but then really who has been in the AFC this season? And just when you thought the Texans might have enough to run away with the division, Matt Schaub goes down.
On Sunday, the Titans showed me that they have what it takes to mount an attack on the AFC South. Solid quarterback play, good defense and, provided Chris Johnson can use this game as a springboard, a good running game. Their performance in this 30-3 win on the road in Carolina easily the best I’ve seen them since their home win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Despite the loss, the Panthers will continue to be intriguing to watch for the remainder of the season, such is the excitement Cam Newton brings to the field. But Newton’s play has definitely dropped-off since the beginning of the season and he is still struggling to pick up wins. His drop in play has also highlighted some other key problems for Carolina that were easy to overlook when the first overall pick of the draft was making play after play. So with that in mind, let’s look at the key performances from both teams.
Carolina – Three Performances of Note
Oh Captain, My Captain
It’s safe to say Captain Munnerlyn (-4.2) is having an up-and-down year. This would be one of the down games. In coverage he was targeted twice, both were completed for a total of 51 yards, but he was also flagged twice. Add in some poor play against the run and his failure to register pressure when he blitzed (okay, so it was only once), and Munnerlyn didn’t have a positive grade in any area of his game. And if you are looking for an example of his poor performance, look no further than the Titans play on 1st-and-10 with 9:40 remaining in the third quarter. With the Titans backed up on their own 8-yard-line, Munnerlyn allowed Damian Williams to beat him inside and pick up the first down. Not a great day at all.
Not Helping the Situation
It’s easy to pin a team’s offensive woes on the quarterback. But while Cam Newton (-1.1) was far from his best, he wasn’t helped by the skill position players around him. They dropped five passes between them over the course of the game. Greg Olsen (-2.8) didn’t just drop a pass, however. His fumble with 8:24 left in the first quarter with the Panthers inside the red zone, robbed Carolina of a scoring opportunity early on. Pivotal moment.
Leading the Way
I’ve expected more from James Anderson (+2.9) this season, but he hasn’t followed his impressive 2010 season (+14.1). Already he has more missed tackles this season (10) than he had all of last year (9). Fortunately however, this was one of his better games of the season. Solid against the run, Anderson registered four defensive stops. Good in coverage, he allowed three catches for 22 yards from the five times he was thrown at. He may have failed to generate any pressure on his six blitzes but that’s a small blot on a good day.
Tennessee – Three Performances of Note
Not a Ruud Boy
It’s safe to say we’re not big Barrett Ruud fans here at PFF with his -11.0 grade on the year fully earned with poor grades across the board. So I was particularly intrigued to see how his backup would fare in the starting lineup with him out injured. Colin McCarthy (+2.4) wasn’t perfect by any means with two missed tackles in the run game but he was a pleasant surprise. In coverage he allowed just two completions for 15 yards and as a pass rusher he registered a hit and a pressure on 12 rushes. Despite those two missed tackles, he still managed to finish the game with four defensive stops. It will be interesting to see if McCarthy can keep a hold of the starting job when Ruud returns from injury.
This McCourty’s Not Struggling
Although his brother get’s most of the hype due to his fantastic rookie season, Jason McCourty (+2.2) has established himself as one of the league’s better corners this season. On Sunday, McCourty allowed three catches for a mere 14 yards including limiting Steve Smith to a pair of 2-yard receptions in his coverage with one such play coming with 4:23 left in the second quarter. When Newton let’s go of the ball on the quick throw to Smith, McCourty is a good nine yards back but McCourty is able to get up the field and wrap Smith up at the legs for a short gain.
If the Titans are indeed going to make a run at the division title in the AFC South, more performances like this one from Damian Williams (+2.0) will be welcomed. Williams, a third round pick a year ago, had yet to have a breakout performance since finding himself in the starting lineup thanks to Kenny Britt’s injury. That was until this week of course where he reeled in five catches for 107 yards for an impressive 21.4 yards per catch average (along with a touchdown). His TD was one my favorite play that I’ve seen from this week so far. With 5:55 left in the first quarter, Williams caught a short pass in the slot. As he spins around you’ll see Darius Butler and Sherrod Martin both in position to make the tackle. Williams was able to avoid Butler’s attempted tackle at his legs before sprinting away from Martin and racing for the end zone. Now we just need to see Williams prove this was not a one-off performance.
– The Panthers gave up 15 penalties. You can’t do that against a quality opponent and expect to stay in the game.
– Michael Roos gave up just a single pressure all game.
– None of Cam Newton’s four passes beyond 20 yards resulted in completions.
PFF Game Ball
He may have been overlooked in the first round of the draft, but this was a glimpse of what Akeem Ayers (+4.0) can do.
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