I'm not sure what Chris Johnson was thinking about as I took this picture in the last half hour or so before kickoff of Sunday's game against the Texans, but I hope it gave him the strength to (a) have what I thought was clearly his best, most consistent performance of the season and (b) survive watching the defense play on the sidelines.
When I wrote about the Lions game last week, I wrote that a lot of what happened in the game was not much of a surprise to me. The Lions didn't get the pass rush I was expecting, but the Titans scored on big plays, they had more offensive success throwing at the Lions' lousy defensive backs, and the Lions moved the ball up and down the field pretty much all game long. Sunday's contest wasn't quite as predictable as that game, but it was close.
What did I see?
1. J.J. Watt, who'd been dominant the first three games, was a terror for the Titans again, collecting two sacks, two more quarterback hits, and recovering a fumble.
2. Damian Williams and Kendall Wright, who last week both ranked in the bottom fifteen of Football Outsiders' advanced stat rankings for wideouts, struggled badly for most of the game. Wright had trouble catching the ball and couldn't separate even from Kareem Jackson. Remember how I wrote before the draft picking a receiver like Wright wouldn't solve the Kenny Britt problem? Four games in, I'm (a) ready to pat myself on the back and (b) very cranky they bypassed Chandler Jones. Williams, meanwhile, failed to win on a simple slant route against Jackson, resulting in a pick-6.
3. Four games in, Jared Cook is the MVP of the Titans on offense. He was limited, playing only 24 snaps, but had three catches and simply presents a threat and target with size the Titans are badly lacking. In praising Cook, I don't meant to downplay the efforts of Craig Stevens, who made two very contested catches and did a good job of fighting for a score.
4. David Stewart actually talks. I saw him chatting with Leroy Harris on the sidelines at times. The famously taciturn offensive tackle also responded to some of the, shall we say, feedback he got after his unnecessary roughness penalty on the first (sigh) pick-6.
5. I noted CJ's big day earlier, but the only part of that that was really surprising to me was how he ran. I noted in my preview thoughts there would be creases at times between the tackles. CJ has just been so incredibly inconsistent (or worse) as a between the tackles runner, and that was true even in 2009, that it's hard to tell if he'll be able to have that success.
6. The Texans have a pretty good offense, but watching the Titans play on defense, it's hard to see them stopping many non-terrible teams. Maybe there's a lot I'm missing, but they looked pretty darn untalented. I didn't think they were good or that talented, but they were even worse than I thought.
7. The defense is also bad at tackling. This is sadly not very new at all.
8. The Texans didn't really hit the big downfield throws I was expecting. This is not really a reason for optimism, as they were able to move the ball pretty consistently without them.
9. Thank you, Gary Kubiak, for continuing to run Ben Tate outside, where the contrast between his vision and Arian Foster's exceptional vision is greatest, and not running him on inside zone where he's gashed the Titans for big plays.
10. Thank you, Jerry Gray, for matching up to the Texans' two-tight end sets by playing base personnel rather than nickel like you did last year. The result was a ground game that while still good was not as devastating.
11. The Week 17 home game against the Jaguars could be a big one for draft position.
I should have a film piece up tomorrow morning.