ReFo: TEN @ HOU, Week 2
Obviously getting the win is important but I can’t help feeling the Tennessee coaching staff should come out of this one feeling a little bit happier than their Houston counterparts. To be on the road, leading by eight and getting the ball back with 4:08 left in the fourth quarter, is a position from where the Titans could (and indeed should) have closed out the game. However, from there they got a little conservative, ran twice for 2 combined yards and gave the ball back with only a minute gone from the clock.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In future perhaps they’ll go for the win, as opposed to trying to avoid the loss, and use this as a stepping stone to move forward from using some of the performances below as a springboard.
As for Houston, 2-0 is great, they discovered a potential superstar in DeAndre Hopkins and they again showed really grit in the face of adversity but they need to improve in a number of areas to be seen as a real threat come playoff time.
Tennessee – Three Performances of Note
Accentuate the Positive
Alterraun Verner (+3.0) didn’t have a great game but he did play very well overall and made a number of key plays early on. Many people will remember the missed tackle on Keshawn Martin that almost allowed the Titans to close out the game in regulation or the three first downs he allowed in the last quarter but this is just part of the story and because it came at the end, more easily remembered.
Earlier, though, he defensed two passes, collected a pick he then returned for the touchdown and made a number of stops in the running game. Overall, his passing stats read… snaps: 52, targeted: 11, receptions: 5, yards: 90 with the interception for a QB rating when in coverage of only 36.2.
Doing Less with More
Perhaps the standout grade for box score watchers is Chris Johnson’s (-2.9). After all, 96 yards rushing at 3.8 without a fumble seems a relatively healthy return and whilst not great, hardly deserves a negative either? The problem here is really not taking more advantage of opportune circumstances than the next guy. Overall his blockers did a very good job and he gained 66 of his yards without ever being contacted. Further, when he was, he always went down, not breaking a single tackle. Add to this his ridiculously thin return of one reception (for 3 yards) in 21 pass routes and being part of the TD celebration that cost the team a penalty.
Pressure up the Middle
For any quarterback being able to step into their throws is helpful but for a young guy with a job on the line, as many suspect Jake Locker is, it’s doubly beneficial. Therefore if you go out and spend $7.8M on a guard and then invest the 10th selection of the draft on another you’d hope for a bit of space in front of you when you drop back to pass.
Unfortunately, both Andy Levitre (-3.1) and Chance Warmack (-2.1) allowed far more pressure than any other Titan offensive lineman with 11 of the 15 times Locker had his throwing motion disrupted being their fault. Now this may clearly be some function of the “J.J. Watt Effect” but for Levitre to give up a sack and five hurries and Warmack to be responsible for two sacks and three hurries is far too much.
Houston – Three Performances of Note
It’s one thing to perform well, it’s quite another for your performance to be directly instrumental in winning a game. That’s exactly the situation DeAndre Hopkins (+4.9) finds himself in after reeling in a succession of fantastic catches to first tie and then ultimately win this game.
It wasn’t without its share of problems, for example the miscommunication with Matt Schaub that cost the Texans a pick six, but in the end the volume of high quality clutch catches won through.
The final numbers were fine (50 routes, 7-of-13 targets for 117 yards and a TD) but it was how he stepped up with Andre Johnson off the field injured that really told his story.
We’re often told it’s not adversity which defines us (that is a given) but how we handle it. If that’s true Duane Brown (+5.0) is ensuring his legacy with a fantastic showing after being badly beaten by Dwight Freeney and the Chargers on Monday Night Football. The Titans’ defensive line is no easy option and to only allow a single hit and dominate in the running game is a great recovery.
Some will blame Brown for the sack by Kamerion Wimbley at 4:47 in the fourth, but this was not his fault. His job is to push his man beyond the quarterback and by taking Wimbley to 11 yards this was easily beyond Schaub’s drop if not for George Wilson’s pressure pushing him deeper.
Instead focus on the athleticism of a 315-pound man to get to the second level and seal Zach Brown outside as he does with 13:13 gone in the first.
It’s been an ongoing theme of this article to take some at first sight “dubious” grades and then explain them. Therefore how better to finish than to examine a linebacker with 10 tackles, all bar one of them being a stop, and detail how Brian Cushing (-1.0) ended up with grade he did.
Unfortunately, not all tackles are created equal; some you have to work for and some are given to you by your defensive line. On this basis eight of Cushing’s tackles were effectively unblocked which wouldn’t have been anything other than a bonus if he hadn’t also been knocked about a bit when playing in space. All of Robert Turner, Chance Warmack and Michael Roos (among others) pushed him about at the second level. To take the next step to recovery he must get off a bigger percentage of these blocks and make more plays when he has to do the bulk of the work.
– Do we have a successor to Vonta Leach? Not content with being our top-graded blocker last week (+3.2), Collin Mooney followed up with a +2.0 against the Texans.
– Matt Schaub was under pressure on exactly 50% of his 50 drop-backs. With the pocket clean his QB rating was a magnificent 136.3. When hurried, a remarkably poor 11.1
– We are only two weeks into the season but so far J.J.Watt already has two sacks, two hits and four hurries as well as two batted passes. Hard as it is to believe he’s already off last year’s pace of three sacks, two hits, four hurries and five batted passes.
PFF Game Ball
No surprise that the Texan rookie coming through in the clutch receives the award. The first of many for DeAndre Hopkins?
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil