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MNF Liveblog: Titans@Saints

Welcome to the liveblog of tonight’s Titans-Saints game, the final game of Week 3 of the 2007 NFL regular season. As I noted in my previous post, this marks Vince Young’s debut on national TV as an NFL player. It also marks the first appearance for the Titans on national TV since a blowout loss to the Broncos on Christmas Day 2004. For the whole liveblog and some preview notes, please see after the jump.
A couple preview notes: it seems like the Saints have almost instituted the Vikings’ famed Randy Ratio, only with respect to Reggie Bush. I saw almost all of their Week 1 loss to the Colts and a little of their Week 2 loss to the Bucs, and they seemed to be trying to get the ball to Bush in a variety of ways. One of the keys to their 0-2 start, though, is that that hasn’t been happening with much success. Closer Saints observers than I have pegged poor play by the offensive line as one of the primary culprits. To get back on track, I’d expect them to try to run more Deuce McAllister up the middle. If the Saints do that, the defensive tackles and MLB Ryan Fowler will be key. The Saints have also been limited to a mostly short passing game, without an intermediate or deep game. I blame part of this on the loss of Joe Horn, but it’ll be up to Sean Payton to try to get the Saints back on track.
When the Titans have the ball, one thing to look for is whether the Saints try to spy Vince Young with S Roman Harper. Ron Jaworski pointed out on NFL Matchup that they’d done that last year against Michael Vick with some success. I’d also look for the Titans to throw the ball deep against a shaky Saints secondary, thought that may be me projecting my hopes. I hope the Titans also do try to continue to throw the ball outside to spread out the Saints defensive. One thing to look for is whether the Saints play one safety (Harper, perhaps) up, like the Colts did with Bob Sanders to try to slow down the Titans running game, rather than keeping two deep the way the Jaguars did.
Also, the list of inactives is out. For the Titans, both Corey Simon and Bryce Fisher are out. Craig Hentrich is inactive, with Josh Miller being added to the active roster and WR Biren Ealy off it. As expected, both Kevin Mawae and Cortland Finnegan are active. For the Saints, rookie WR first round pick and former Tennessee Vol Robert Meachem is inactive again. S Jay Bellamy was released and replaced on the active roster by DB Chris Reis.
I’ll be back with more thoughts as gametime approaches.
7:41 PM (1Q 15:00): Titans win the toss and elect to receive. Mare’s kick goes a couple yards deep in the end zone, and the Michael Griffin elects not to bring it out. Titans start 1&10 from their own 20.
7:43 (1Q 13:25): The Titans start out passing. VY on the bootleg to Scaife for 20, then to Roydell on a comeback for a dozen. I’m liking the start.
7:46 (1Q 10:45): Ah, I (heart) VY. Look, look, look downfield, move in the pocket, then take off on 2&6 and pick up a first down and get out of bounds to avoid the hit.
7:47 (1Q 9:40): It sure looked like Roydell get hit late on that terrible run, but unfortunately it’s not flagged. And VY has to take a hard throw on 2&21 and can’t fit it in.
7:51 (1Q 8:52): Ok, that was something of a disaster of a 3rd down play. I think Mawae’s snap was slightly to VY’s left, and he didn’t handle it well. At least the Saints burn a TO trying to get the right people on in punt formation, matching the TO the Titans burnt before 3rd down. For a drive that started out so well, that was a very disappointing ending.
7:54 (1Q 8:45): With a new punter, you always hope for clean plays. Not a great punt by Miller, but not a terrible one either, down to the 16.
7:56 (1Q 7:38): Bush on an end-around for 1, Deuce up the middle for 1, then the Saints apparently didn’t watch the Titans’ play in the preseason, as KVB stunts around Haynesworth and forces Brees to throw early. Alas, Davis’s fantastic 55 yard return off the punt will be, as Tulloch gets called for playing out of bouns and LeVar Woods gets called for holding.
8:02 (1Q 5:23): VY with a good effort to draw the Saints in on a screen, and then VY hits Jones for a first down on 3&7 after White does little with two runs. Let me know if you see White look like a good NFL running back. (One of my pet peeves, I well know).
8:05 (1Q 2:54): The Titans get a first and goal that must have been just inside the 10. I swear, they must be one of the best teams at getting first and goal from the 8 or beyond. Brown gets stuffed in the backfield on first down, VY misses Roydell on a comeback on 2nd down, and a deep pass for Scaife on a sack-avoidance throw is too far. Bironas hits the FG after a perfectly good hold by Miller. Titans up 3-0.
8:09 (1Q 2:36): The Saints have Bush out on the kickoff team and fake the reverse to him, as expected by virtually everyone except, apparently, Tony Kornheiser. Stecker takes the return out to about the 35, and the Saints will be praised for their creative use of Reggie Bush, rather than the Titans kickoff team getting the normal catcalls after yet another negative performance.
8:13 (1Q 1:00): The Saints run three offensive plays, two rushes for almost nothing and a pass to Mike Karney on 2nd down for 6. Saints going for it from their own 43 on 4th and very short. Brees throws deep, incomplete, the Saints commit a hold, and the Titans take over in good field position. Hopefully this drive can end in a TD.
8:19 (2Q 13:58): Titans face 4&short on the Saints 36, and Chris Brown is able to avoid a tackle in the backfield to convert. Wait, Chris Brown converted a 4&1?!?
8:21 (2Q 13:02): The Titans throw 12-15 yards downfield over the middle off a flea flicker like they do every team, and the pass for Roydell is broken up. The next play, though, VY finds Jones over the middle. Brandon’s able to avoid 3 tacklers and go 35 yards for the touchdown. Titans up 9-0 pending the PAT. Bad news, though, as Benji Olson is injured on the play.
8:26 (2Q 12:43): Ok, I give, maybe it was all Reggie Bush on the kickoff, as Griffin takes down Stecker at the 16. Proof it’s not Reggie: screen pass on first down results in a tackle by Thornton for a loss of 5. Alas, Saints manage their first first down after Brees finds Colston in the hole on the cover 2 for 16.
8:30 (2Q 10:15): Holding, 6 yard pass, INT by Keith Bulluck. Drew Brees continues his terrible habit of throwing the ball downfield into coverage. Great athletic play by Bulluck who looked like he was playing in the middle on a cover-2 zone. Alas, VY throws into 3 defenders and right to Jason David. Terrible, terrible play right after a turnover.
8:35 (2Q 9:30): Brees to Colston on a quick pass, with a good 1v1 tackle by Nick Harper to hold him to a gain of 8 yards. That’s the key to keeping Brees throwing into coverage in the intermediate range-if they can’t get gains with the short passes, they’ll throw deep. And that FB dive to Mike Karney that worked so well on SNF last year v Dallas? Mike Karney, meet Albert Haynesworth. In the backfield, of course. And Brees burns the Saints’ second TO before 3rd down.
8:39 (2Q 7:14): And the Saints convert the 3rd down, but can’t get any more yardage. Chris Davis STUPIDLY fields the punt at the 2, but manages to get it out to the 17, where the Titans will scrimmage up 10-0. Also, please note that, unlike some other presentations of the game, this liveblog is limited to tonight’s football game between the Titans and the Saints. Please keep the comments section the same.
8:41 (2Q 7:03): Just a note about the 3rd down play-Travis LaBoy dropped into coverage and helped disrupt the quick slant to Colston-probably as part of a zone blitz. That’s not something you’ve seen a lot from the Titans.
8:44 (2Q 5:27): Alas, the Titans go 3&out, as VY can’t hit Gage in double coverage on 3&2 after 2 White rushes. A Titan runs out of bounds, and the Saints elect to make the Titans take 4th down again. Not only that, Reggie Bush comes out to field the second punt. Miller with a great punt, though, and Fowler does well to maintain outside contain. Bush may be exciting, but he’s not a guaranteed TD every return. No returner is.
8:48 (2Q 4:27): Yeesh. Drew Brees throws up a prayer 37 yards downfield and Colston is able to beat Harper and Finnegan and go up and get the ball.
8:53 (2Q 2:00): Well, the Saints finally manage a drive, though that stupid prayer did a lot of the work. They do manage to convert a 3&1 by running Aaron Stecker. Encouraging sign: Albert Haynesworth was in the backfield again, continuing his strong performance. Hopefully Big Albert can keep it up for the whole game-when he does, he’s among the couple best defensive tackles in the NFL.
8:57 (2Q 1:45): Yeesh. The Titans bail the Saints out again, as Odom gets his hand up on Brees’ face mask and gets called for roughing the passer to give the Saints 1&goal. Bush runs up the middle and may or may not be in-called down on the field, but may have gotten in the end zone. Terrible ball security by Bush, stretching for the goalline from way out, but he gets away with it.
9:02 (2Q 1:00): Yeesh. Bush is ruled short on replay, correctly. Then Brees tries to hit Bush on a flat pass in the end zone, and Reggie flat out drops it. Alas, it’s an I-form run and Bush manages to bounce it outside past David Thornton for the TD. Mare XP good and it’s 10-7. This feels disturbingly like the 2004 Colts game in Week 2 when the Titans dominated the first half, only to come in with not much of a lead. The news gets even better as VY is heading to the locker room before the kickoff. Collins is warming up on the sidelines, but I expect the Titans to just kneel the ball right here.
9:05 (2Q :30): The Titans don’t actually kneel the ball starting from their own 20. No, instead it’s 2 checkdowns by Collins to Chris Brown. 65 yards away from goal, :30 and 1 TO. C’mon, Kerry!
9:07 (Half): A short pass to Roydell, another checkdown to Brown, and Fisher elects to let the clock run out rather than, say, call a TO and run another play and maybe a hail mary. Alas, Titans go into halftime only up 10-7. For all the success the Titans have had in the first half, they definitely go into the second half on a down note, allowing the TD and VY going into the locker room for an IV, or maybe with throwing hand cramps. A great start, and yet the Saints get the ball first and the Titans could easily find themselves tied or trailing when they get the ball in the second half.
9:16 (Half): What happened to the counter play? A longtime Titan playbook staple, this was something they used to pretty good success against the Jags in week one. Yet, against the Colts, I don’t think they called a single one, and I don’t think I’ve seen one tonight either. To be honest, I don’t have a good handle on what the Titans are trying to do offensively this game-against the Jags, it was clear they were running up the middle. Against the Colts, they wanted to run up the middle and threw quick outside passes to try to force the Colts to spread out. Tonight, though, I’m not seeing the overlying theme-doesn’t mean there isn’t one, just that I can’t tell you what it is.
9:24 (3Q 14:40): Sean Payton: Mastermind! That’s a long toss to Bush, a lateral back to Brees, and he gets crushed by Bulluck after the Titans have Colston(?) double covered downfield. Then, Henderson is covered by Finnegan, and Haynesworth is pressuring Brees to force a bad throw on third down. Alas, the Titans’ 3rd backup linebacker, Gilbert Gardner has a penalty on the punt to force the Titans further downfield. Would you please stop doing that?
9:29 (3Q 12:54): And the Titans go 3&out after starting the drive inside their own 10 after the penalty. Miller gets off a nice punt, thankfully, and Bush doesn’t get a chance to return. 46 yard net is a nice punt.
9:35 (3Q 9:45): Yeesh, the Saints are moving the ball downfield way too easily. Note: presence of Albert Haynesworth on the sideline. Methinks those two are not coincidental.
9:37 (3Q 7:55): The Titans play off on 3rd down, allowing the quick pass for first and goal, and Reggie Bush goes into the end zone way too easily. 14-10 now. The Titans have to have points on this drive or a game that’s already slipping away might become out of reach.
9:44 (3Q 6:25): Chris Brown starts off the drive with a nice cutback run for a first down, and Brown with a carry and a catch to set up 3&4. This is a BIG 3rd down conversion.
9:47 (3Q 3:36): And they bust out the read option, with White almost stopping before remembering it’s 3rd down and he has to go forward. Another third down conversion by VY, but declined because the Saints went offsides and 5 yards was more than VY got. 1st and 10 from the 12-make this a TD, guys.
9:50 (3Q 2:33): It’s a pass for Moulds for 9 and what looks like a first down at the 2. Called a force-out, but Sean Payton challenges Moulds’ possession of the ball anyway. I can’t believe this will be overturned and seems like a poor use of a challenge and valuable timeout to me. Then again, I’ve ben wrong plenty of times before.
9:52 (Commercial Interlude): (1) Does anybody know own, or know somebody who owns, a Fathead? (2) Who, really, does that Disney movie appeal to? Anybody over the age of 10?
9:54 (3Q 2:19): Moulds catch stands. TD, White. Miller with a good hold, Bironas PAT good, Titans up 17-14. Calm restored to the liveblogger, at least momentarily.
10:02 (end 3Q): Ok, see that people? That’s why you want to see your QB go in low or slide or run out of bounds. Brees takes a big hit on that scramble and comes up really wobbly. And the Saints burned their second TO.
10:03 (4Q 14:55): And we have a Travis LaBoy sighting! He comes around Jon Stinchcomb, knocks the ball out of Brees’ hands, and Starks recovers. Titans ball at midfield. Punch this in, guys, punch this in.
10:06 (4Q 12:55): Ah, VY to Roydell for the conversion. I was hoping for some QB movement, but the in-and-out action gets Roydell open and some decent YAC as well.
10:09 (4Q 9:35): Another 3rd down conversion, after VY throws it down to Jones to set up 3&1. White up the middle on 1&G. TD now.
10:10 (4Q 8:55): And the Titans listen to me. Some QB movement, a rollout, and a throw a little bit behind to an open Bo Scaife. PAT good, 24-14, liveblogger relaxing a little bit more.
10:19 (4Q 7:22): KVB hits Brees while throwing, and Bulluck with a diving INT followed by a funky return. Payton has little choice but to challenge, as a TD here pretty much ends the game, but I think this is another challenge he’s going to lose.
10:22 (4Q 7:22): I love Mike Carey, who gives such complete explanations. That’s right, the ball never touched the ground and the Titans have the ball in the red zone. Time to end this game with a TD. The Saints are now out of TOs, so a 3-score comeback is pretty close to impossible.
10:24 (4Q 5:30): And the Titans are stuffed on 3&1-I’m disappointed. Bironas is out for the FG. As a non-coach, I advocate going for it here, but it’s not my job on the line. And I wouldn’t have gotten a delay of game penalty. And Bironas misses the FG-yeesh, that’s disappointing. A left hash kick and it looked like he just hooked it left. Terrible.
10:30 (4Q 3:49): This short passing game the Saints are exhibiting worries me. Not so much that last play, where Reggie runs out of bounds to lose a yard, but the rest of them. Consistent completions, consistently getting a few yards at a time. There’s still some time left.
10:32 (4Q 2:39): Ok, I’m happy now. Finnegan with good coverage on a slant, ball tipped in the air right to Fuller, who takes it back about 58 for a TD. PAT good to make it a 3-score game. 31-14, and you can put this baby to bed.
10:40 (4Q 1:11): Keith Bulluck with INT #3 of the game, jumping a pass intended for Colston. And he gets his second delay of game penalty for throwing the ball into the stands. I don’t mind this one, since, really, who cares if the Titans kneeldown from 5 yards further back. The previous one, which pushed the Titans back from the 8 to the 13, really annoyed me, even if I didn’t mention it above.
10:42 (end 4Q): And that’s the game, 31-14. I’ll have a recap post up in an hour or so-work beckons, alas.