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Titans smother Panthers, continue domination over NFC South non-Colts offenses

In today’s game at LP Field, the Titans’ defense continued their domination of opposing offenses, holding the Panthers off the board for three quarters and knocking David Carr out of the game in a 20-7 victory. With the victory, the Titans completed the inter-conference portion of their schedule with a 3-1 record.
You may have noticed I haven’t said anything about the offense yet. Yeah, the offense scored 20 points, but they were hardly more productive than Carolina. It started out looking like it might be a good day, as the Titans took the opening kickoff 52 yards for a TD after a 46 yard return by Griffin. The drive featured two third down conversions, including the TD, and no incomplete passes. VY capped it himself when he scrambled in on 3rd and goal from the 3. It would be a mere 12 1/2 minutes before the Titans offense got another first down, including 2 3&out’s, one of which ended in a FG thanks to excellent field position. That drive ended when White got stuffed on 3&1 and fumbled to boot. A 3&out and a bad INT followed before the Titans took the ball 50 yards in 1:50 at the end of the first half, a drive capped by a 53-yard Bironas FG to make it 13-0. The second half featured more mediocre drives, including VY’s second end zone interception of the game. The offense did manage to basically cap the game by taking the ball 86 yards in 13 plays, with White finishing the drive off from a yard out to put the Titans up 20-0 with just under 12 minutes to play.
Since “statistics never lie,” let’s see how people did. VY finished 14 of 23 for 110 yards and 2 INT. 7.9 yards per completion. 4.8 yards per pass. 0.9 AdjYPA. That’s not very good. Scaife had 6 catches … for 35 yards. Roydell had 3 for 22. The longest pass play was to Henry on a screen for 18. VY took off a little more, on the TD when he had a huge lane in front of him (finally), and a nice one for 16, but nothing like the second Colts game last year. Jones didn’t have a catch in his return from injury, but did take the ball 18 yards on an end around which was nearly disastrous. Oh, my favorite whipping boy, LenDale White? As he said in the post-game interview, he’s “having fun out there.” “Credit” where “credit” is due: he hit triple digits rushing for the fourth consecutive game, and scored a TD. It took him 31 carries, and he hit 100 on the dot. That’s a sparkling 3.22 yards per carry, for those of you scoring at home. That’s, um, not very good, as in positively Eddie c. 2003-like. Chris Henry wasn’t great, either, in his third NFL game, running 3 times for a “grand” total of -3 yards.
Thankfully, there’s the defense to this team, and it’s pretty good. Whipping boy David Carr started with VinnyT out for the Panthers, and he went down. A lot. 7 times in all, highlighted by 3 by Haynesworth, before Carr was finally knocked out of the game. Final line: 15-27, 107 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Steve Smith had a grand total of 3 catches for 15 yards. Rookie QB Matt Moore came in for Carr after he was injured, and looked good for several throws before throwing one right to Chris Hope to kill the faint comeback hopes. DeShaun Foster had one of the better days by a Titans opponent RB, picking up 17 yards on 63 carries (note: under 4.0 ypc), while DeAngelo Williams had 1 good run for 14 and 3 more carries for a yard.
The Panthers could have scored more than the 7 they did-a drive aided by 4(!) Titan penalties, including back-to-back offsides and two personal fouls got to the edge of FG range before the Panthers went backwards on a false start, an incompletion to Steve Smith in the end zone where Michael Griffin made a great help play to break up a TD, and two negative plays. John Kasay missed a FG from 40 after White’s fumble set them up at the Titans 24, and pooch punted on what would have been a 54 yard attempt after the Panthers lost 6 yards on third down because Carr dropped the snap. The drive that ended in the TD pass to Colbert was penalty-aided, though, as Odom and Finnegan each picked up a personal foul call. Still, that’s not a bad performance.
Special teams? Bironas 2 for 2, including from 53 at the end of the half. Hentrich had an AWESOME 66 yard punt when the Titans were backed up to their own 4 and couldn’t get anything on 3 plays in the third quarter, when the game was still more than marginally theoretically in doubt. Henry had the aforementioned 46 yard kickoff return. Bironas’s kickoffs were all solid, including solid coverage, so the Panthers didn’t start any of those drives outside their own 25. Punt return was the only issue: while the backup linebackers managed not to commit a penalty (Eric King stepped in to fill that breach) and Davis had a 39 yard return, he also put the ball on the ground, giving the Panthers in the ball on the edge of field goal range.
Quibbles aside, it’s another pretty dominating performance by the Titans’ defense, and an offense that does enough to win. The Titans are now 6-2 and only a game behind the Colts in the AFC South. The Titans have a very important game next week at home against the Jaguars. It’s early, but a win over the Jags, who lost today to fall to 5-3, would go a long way toward putting a lock on second place, with a virtual 3-game lead over the Jags. A loss, and it’s back to a tie for second. Naturally, check out Total Titans for the normal game previews. Before those, though, we’ll also be bringing you the Titans’ half-season in review this week.
UPDATE (11/5, 9:14 AM CT):  Thanks to the commentariat for reminding me we lost to the Bucs and thus don’t an 11-year winning streak against the current NFC South teams.  The post title and introduction have been revised accordingly.