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MNF Liveblog: Titans@Broncos

Welcome to the liveblog of tonight’s Monday Night Football game, where the Titans will be taking on the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. This is the Titans’ second and final appearance on Monday Night Football for the year. Back in Week 3, they defeated the Saints, 31-14. For more on that game, see that liveblog. For some previous thoughts and the whole liveblog, please see after the jump.
The last meeting between the Titans and Broncos came in the 2006 preseason. The Broncos that game thoroughly outplayed the Titans. For one of my initial forays into PBP breakdowns, see what I wrote about that game. One of the recurring themes of that game, and one thing I’m worried about tonight, is the Broncos’ ability to get the Titans DEs out of position. The counter-pitch was a very effective weapon in the running game that night, and the Broncos seem to run more bootlegs than any other team in the league. The Titans have been much better this year at keeping contain than they were at the beginning of last season, but that’s one of the issues I’ll be keeping my eye on tonight.
FYI, the list of inactives is out for tonight, and it’s not good news for the Titans. Benji Olson is out, sending Eugene Amano into the starting lineup at RG. Nick Harper is out, sending Reynaldo Hill into the starting lineup. Albert Haynesworth misses his second straight game, keeping Randy Starks in the starting lineup. Casey Cramer is officially inactive, with Ben Hartsock stepping into the starting lineup as the 2nd TE. Practically, that means you’ll probably see an awful lot of singleback sets tonight, and more Bo Scaife in the backfield than normal. I’ll be back closer to when the game starts with more thoughts.
7:40 (1Q 15:00): Hey, Titans receive the ball first and it’s a touchback. Titans start out with a 0 yard pass to Roydell Williams, whom Tirico starts out calling “Roydell Young.” Broadcasting at its finest!
7:43 (1Q 12:45): VY scrambles on 3&7 to pick up the first down, and juuuust gets it. Looks just short to me, but I’ll take it.
7:45 (1Q 11:00): VY pumpfakes and finds Brandon Jones wide open 35 yards downfield. And Jones flat out drops it. !#%!%#!@#% Thankfully, he’s able to find Roydell on the 12 yard in on 3&10.
7:48 (1Q 9:00): VY with the bootleg and the pass right to Champ Bailey, who thankfully can’t make the catch. White for 0, then a VY scramble for 1. And Hentrich puts it in the end zone from the 40. Not a great opening drive.
7:54 (1Q 6:50): Run for 8, run for 5, pass for 16. Great start on defense. And these are runs right where the defensive tackles would be. Sigh.
7:55 (1Q 5:13): Third down, but Cutler’s able to move around and find Brandon Stokley downfield. The Titans were playing zone coverage downfield and Stokley is able to get Hope turned around. Long, unproductive drives, followed by giving up a TD, are not a good way to win football games.
7:58 PM: Chris Henry almost makes a dangerous decision by really hesitating, then finally kneels before moving up to the goalline. For those not able to see the game on TV, one of the best ways to follow along is with NFL’s GameCenter for the game. I keep it open while watching to keep track of stats and exact yardage totals.
8:02 PM (1Q 3:30): And it’s a 3-and-out! Pass to Moulds for 9 was an encouraging start, but then Gage can’t haul in a pass behind him on the in, and White’s stuffed. And Hentrich’s 51 yard punts is taken 79 yards the other way by Glenn Martinez. 13-0, XP pending. Ugh.
8:06 PM (1Q 3:25): Well, if you’re down trying to come back from down 14-0, a 42 yard kickoff return is a good way to start. Too bad the kick was officially 7 yards deep, which means the Titans only start at their own 35.
8:11 PM (1Q 2:00): VY scrambles for another first down after a Roos false gives the Titans 3&12. And it’s a TE screen to Troupe for 8 on the next play. Positive plays, positive plays.
8:13 PM (end 1Q): And it’s the end of the first quarter, with the Broncos leading the Titans, 14-0. The Titans haven’t looked particularly good in any phase of the game. The PR TD by Martinez is a particular dark spot. The long TD pass to Stokley was another one. White has 6 carries for 12 yards, with a long of 4. That’s not really getting it done. VY had 6 carries as well, 5 of them on scrambles.
8:17 PM (2Q 13:45): A hold on second down gives the Titans 2&18, but it’s a pass to Roydell for 16 with the run after the slant, and a pass to Gage with the DB playing well off (why?) on 3&2. And VY with the pump and then a good throw between two defenders to find Brandon Jones for 21 and a touchdown. Woo. 14-7 after Bironas hits the XP.
8:28 (2Q 12:07): Bootleg pass for a good gain. Bootleg pass for a good gain. Cutler throw deep for Stokley. It’s underthrown, and Finnegan has positioning, which means he impedes Stokley coming back from the ball, which is a 37 yard pass interference penalty. If the NFL goes to a 15 v spot call, that’s a good candidate for a 15 yard penalty.
8:30 PM (2Q 10:25): Well, the defense was good in the red zone, at least. Two short runs on first and third down for Selvin Young, and Hill managed to tackle Scheffler to set up the third down play. Elam FG, and it’s 17-7. Still, only 3 isn’t a bad red zone performance.
8:36 PM (2Q 8:30): VY hits Scaife on the seam, VY scrambles on the bootleg for 8, Brown up the middle for 6. This looks like an actual NFL offense. Naturally, TonyK is pontificating, and brings up a gratuitous Brett Favre reference.
8:40 PM (2Q 5:57): !#@%!#@%!@#! LenDale White in the game, and he’s there to ruin a good drive. He spins away from the first tackle, but Thomas is able to knock the ball out, and LB Ian Gold falls on it.
8:43 PM (2Q 4:20): There’s a good example of something Cutler can do well. The Titans are playing what looks like a Cover-2, which means that you can find spaces on the outside, over the LBs and in front of the safeties. And Cutler has a very good arm, plenty good to hit Scheffler for a 15 yard out.
8:49 PM (2Q 1:51): Elam hits the FG, and it’s now 20-7 as another Bronco drive peters out in the red zone. Hopefully the Titans can do something with the 2-minute drill.
8:52 PM (2Q 1:02): A decent start, to Gage for 16, to Brown on a dumpoff for what ends up being 16 after he makes a nifty move to slip a would-be tackler to get out of bounds and get the first down, then to Gage for another first down. VY nearly airmails Scaife open over the middle, and it’s too far. Incomplete on the field, but it might be overturned.
8:56 PM (2Q :14): Not reviewed, alas. VY then too far for Jones, and a little far for Roydell on 3rd down, who maybe should have made the catch. Bironas misses from 56, but Shanahan ices him. Badly, as it turns out, as Bironas hits on his second chance. 20-10, :09 left.
8:59 PM (end 2Q): Halftime. Broncos up 20-10, and get the ball to start the second half. I’ll be back in a couple with some halftime thoughts.
9:13 PM (HT): I can’t think of a single game this year VY has been better-not perfect, but very good. Alas, White has been bad, the ST had a key breakdown, and the defense is clearly not as good without Haynesworth. Too much zone, too much running up the middle.
9:22 PM (3Q 11:12): The Titans look like they’re mixing up man and zone, but they’re in zone for that third down pass. Hope came up woozy after a tackle at the start of the drive, and Marshall is able to beat Lowry to the ball and avoid his tackle. 41 yard TD, and the Broncos are up 27-10. Tough to win when the defense isn’t getting any stops.
9:30 PM (3Q 9:57): Gage fail to catch. Scaife fail to catch. Too fast of a pass for Gage, and it’s 3-and-out. Very frustrating.
9:32 PM (3Q 9:34): Well, Martinez dropping a punt and Scanlan recovering it helps. And VY takes the keeper on the read option for 19. 1&G, Titans.
9:36 PM (3Q 8:00): Well, that’s an interesting sequence. VY on a keeper on 2&G, called OOB at the 1. I think he gets it. The Titans can’t pull the gun on challenging and run a third down play that’s a total busted play. Yet, Shanahan’s masterminding again, and the Broncos call TO (by Ian Gold, maybe, not Shanny), and the 3rd down play is eliminated. I expect Fisher to challenge the call during the commercial break.
9:41 PM (3Q “7:34”): Play reversed, VY TD. 27-17 after Bironas hits the PAT. One issue: :31 ran off the clock between when VY scored, resulting in the TD, which stops the clock, and before Denver calls the TO, after which Fisher challenges. At this point, that time’s not that important, but it really does matter. Or maybe I’m just an accuracy purist.
9:46 PM (3Q 7:27): The Titans’ rush to the injury room continues, as Michael Griffin is shaken up. I didn’t notice if Chris Hope was in the game, but I doubt it. With both Griffin and Hope out, and Harper inactive, the Titans are really thin in the secondary.
9:52 PM (3Q 5:00): Apparently, Mike Tirico doesn’t realize Vinny Fuller is the nickel back, as he brings down Cutler. Chris Davis tries to fumble the point, and the Broncos win the pointing war but are trumped by the official. A good run by White, and then a bad run by White is eliminated by a Bronco offside. VY shaken up with a quad injury, but he’s back in. Chris Brown is apparently “sick to his stomach,” so White’s playing there.
10:00 PM (end 3Q): Hey, the Titans are driving again. Where’s this offense been this year? Credit where it’s due: White after starting 7 for 10 has 30 yard on his last 5 carries.
10:02 PM (4Q 14:17): Well, VY with an ineffective scramble on that 3rd down, but at least Bironas hits the FG. Given where we were not that long ago, being down 27-20 at the start of the fourth quarter is a positive sign.
10:07 PM (4Q 12:48): Who the heck is Andre Hall? Aside from that guy who just ran up the middle for 62 yards and a TD? Broncos up 34-20. Reynaldo Hill missed a tackle on the play. I bet you’re surprised.
10:13 PM (4Q 11:08): Titans go 3&out deep in their own territory after Troupe takes the ball on the return instead of Henry and a Loper PF pushes them back. Pass for 6 yards on 3&8, Gage tackled short of the sticks. Own 15 is too deep to go for it, but the Broncos start at their own 45. Based on the defensive play so far, this game is pretty much over.
10:24 PM (4Q 6:08): A defensive stop, which I didn’t expect, and some productivity on the drive. VY takes a DREADFUL sack, but a good pass to Moulds to get 3&manageable, then a scramble. Chris Brown also back in and looking not bad. I’m almost ready to forgive the PF by Nickey on the punt return. Oh, and Moulds just drops a pass. Go Titan WRs!
10:26 PM (4Q 5:00): I’m sorry, I cursed the WRs. VY with a pass slightly behind Moulds, and he lets Dre Bly get the interception. Game really feeling over now.
10:29 PM (4Q 3:24): !#%!@#%!@# ESPN. Giving us a sideline interview over the play, during only the most crucial drive during the game. Screw you, Rod Smith. And now we get a Rod Smith montage. Fisher with another key non-challenge to let the Broncos convert a questionable 3D. And Fisher later accepts a holding penalty to set up 2&20 instead of 3&7. Sorry, time is much more valuable than yardage. Another bad decision by Fisher, IMO.
10:37 PM (4Q 1:54): !#$!#@$! VY with a DREADFUL interception, trying to throw a jump pass over LB Ian Gold but not getting it high enough. Just terrible. It’s 3 kneels and done with the Titans out of timeouts.
10:41 PM (end 4Q):  Game over, Broncos win 34-20.  I’ll be back later this evening with a recap post.  Thanks for participating.