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Upon further review: VY’s play against the Steelers

This is NOT a game recap.  If that’s what you want, read Drexel’s post.

The big story out of today’s game against the Steelers is obviously the benching of Vince Young and the insertion of Kerry Collins.  Though Fisher said after the game that VY is still the starter, the question still stands as to why?  Fisher didn’t spend a lot of energy after the game explaining his decision, so I thought I’d take a look at VY’s performance during the game.

Normal disclaimers: these are only the designed passing plays.  I’m doing this off TV coverage, so there’s lots of stuff I’m not seeing and I try to be hesitant where I should be.  I’m happy to quibble with plays and admit error where there’s error, but this is what I could see.

1Q 13:38 1-10-PIT37 Pass short left to Gage to PIT 28 for 9 yards
Titans finally take the field on offense after two Steeler possessions, already down 7-0.  Stevens motions back to create a full house set, which the Titans ran a couple times against the Raiders, including for Ringer’s touchdown run.  VY makes a quick pass to Gage for a short out route, just over James Harrison as he drops into coverage.  Nice start to open the game for the Titans’ offense.

1Q 13:04 2-1-PIT28 Pass deep left to Gage pushed ob at PIT 11 for 17 yards
I formation, Gage outside left and Washington in the slot left.  Hall stays in to block, VY fakes to CJ who releases into the left flat, and the ball comes out for Gage after the drop.  Gage apparently runs a deep comeback and makes the catch before going out of bounds.  Two plays, two good ones.

1Q 11:36 3-4-PIT5 Delay of Game, 5 Yards
Very disappointing.  The Titans were coming out of a time out, but seem to come out of the huddle late and can’t get a second time out.  I don’t know what happened, and VY’s post-game comments aren’t much more enlightening.

1Q 11:36 3-9-PIT10 Pass short middle to B.Scaife to PIT 3 for 7 yards
After the penalty, the Titans come up Britt wide left, Washington slot left, Gage near hash left, Scaife next to Stewart, and CJ motions out of the backfield into the right slot.  The Steelers rush 4, and it’s a screen for Bo with Amano out early blocking, followed by Harris and Scott.  The key non-block is Harris’s, who cuts down Kiesel coming from behind but leaves untouched Farrior coming from the middle of the field.  Farrior gets CJ’s legs, and that gives enough time for other plays to stop Bo short of the first down.  Not a huge fan of this playcall here, as you need 9 yards and there’s simply not enough room at the 10 to space players out the way you want to.  VY did nothing wrong here.

1Q 8:19 1-10-PIT40 Pass short left to A.Hall to PIT 27 for 13 yards
Titans down 7-3 after the field goal the previous drive, and starting with good field position after a 38 yard punt return by Mariani.  After the previous questionable playcall, I like what Heimerdinger does here, faking a swing pass to CJ and throwing the throwback screen to Hall.  Harris picks up Harrison, Amano gets a seal, and Hall hurdles Clark 10 yards downfield for a nice gain.

1Q 5:53 1-10-PIT16 Pass deep middle intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by T.Polamalu at PIT -5
Trips right, Scaife, Stevens, and Washington, with Gage split wide left.  Steelers rush just 4, VY has a clean pocket, and he throws it to Polamalu.  Washington was open.  After seeing the replay, I think this one is on either Heimerdinger or Bo.  Washington runs a deep post out of the trips, and Scaife runs an in.  There’s simply not enough separation there.  Could VY have avoided this pick?  Probably, but it looks to me like it was not his fault.

2Q 12:54 3-5-TEN25 Pass short left to K.Britt to TEN 28 for 3 yards
Titans down 10-3.  After two CJ runs to start the drive, VY is in the gun next to CJ with Gage and Britt close left, Scaife right, and Washington slot left.  Steelers bring the expected 4, but Woodley gets some push-similar to Wimbley’s strip-sack last week, Stewart (this time) waits to engage the outside rush and doesn’t properly anchor.  VY is forced to scramble and gets off an awkward-looking pass to Britt, who’s tackled short of the first down line by Polamalu.  Without a view of what happened downfield, I’m not sure if VY should’ve gotten rid of the ball to somebody else earlier or what.

2Q 10:28 1-10-TEN37 Pass deep right to C.Johnson to PIT 46 for 17 yards
After a Steelers 3&out, the Titans start the drive with Hall offset to the right with Stevens, Gage split left and Washington split right.  After a fake to CJ, VY drops back and scrambles to the acres of space on his left side.  He seems to do a good job of keeping his eyes downfield, and eventually slings one for CJ in a relatively tight space.  A good gain ensues, and Mike Tomlin loses a challenge on the play.  There’s a slightly better downfield look on replay, but it’s impossible for me to say VY made any mistake here.

2Q 9:19 2-6-PIT42 Pass short left to C.Johnson to PIT 42 for no gain
Scaife motions into an offset fullback left, with Stevens next to Stewart, Washington slot left, and Gage wide left.  Steelers run a little bit of a zone blitz, dropping both OLBs from the line of scrimmage and rushing both ILBs up the middle.  Scaife does a lousy job of picking up Timmons, and VY dumps the ball off the CJ rather than try to escape the pocket.  I can’t fault him for that decision.  One issue is pre-snap recognition: was there someplace VY should have gone with the ball quickly, when he saw the blitz?  I can’t answer that question.

2Q 8:35 3-6-PIT42 Pass short middle intended for J.Gage INTERCEPTED by L.Woodley at PIT 37
Britt wide right, Gage slot right, Washington wide left, Scaife next to Roos, CJ to VY’s left in the gun.  The Steelers are in what looks like 2 DL-4 LB-5 DL packages, so it’s difficult to tell who’s coming.  They do kind of show it late, bringing heavy pressure from the right side where the Titans are weak.  Timmons comes in unblocked-CJ is slow coming over.  After showing an initial rush, Woodley drops off.  From the replay, it’s clear VY’s eyes were on Timmons, probably partly to look off the defense, and he doesn’t get his head around in time to see Woodley dropped off.  VY can’t make that mistake, but I’m going to put some blame on CJ here as well-if he gets over in time and can block Timmons, VY knows he has time and can avoid this interception.

3Q 13:16 2-18-TEN27 Scrambles left end to TEN 33 for 6 yards. FUMBLES, ball out of bounds at TEN 33
Titans down 13-3.  The Titans are backed up by getting flagged for 12 men in the huddle and CJ getting strung out.  It’s trips again with Scaife, Stevens, and Washington to the left.  Woodley gets a good inside rush on Stewart, forcing VY to scramble.  With Hoke also coming free, VY has an easy choice to pick up what yards he can.  Under the circumstances, 6 isn’t a bad gain.  FTR, he was also down before the ball came out, but since it bounded safely out of bounds, Fisher doesn’t have a burn a challenge fixing the ref’s mistake.

3Q 12:15 3-12-TEN33 Scrambles up the middle to TEN 39 for 6 yards
VY in the gun, CJ to his left, Britt wide left, Scaife right, Gage slot right, Washington wide right.  The Steelers have 0 guys with their hand in the dirt, 6 on the line.  They bring 5, and it’s picked up as Scaife stays in and CJ stays in at first before releasing.  Woodley, who dropped off, picks up CJ, so VY takes off and gets 6.  Not throwing to CJ was the right call, but it’s impossible for me to say if there was anything else he should have done.

3Q 10:27 1-10-TEN47 Pass incomplete short right to C.Johnson
After a defensive stop, the Titans start with good field position.  I-formation, Stevens right, Gage wide left, Washington wide right.  Playcall is a swing for CJ, with Woodley covering him, but it looks like VY throws it a little too hot.  VY’s first, and as it happens, only inaccurate throw.

3Q 9:47 3-11-TEN46 Sacked at TEN 35 for -11 yards
More 3-wide, Britt left, Gage slot right, Washington right, Scaife right, CJ to VY’s left.  More nobody with their hand in the dirt from the Steelers, as they rush 5 of the 6 milling around.  The right throw here is probably a hot by VY, maybe to Washington, covered by Farrior.  He doesn’t make the quick throw, though, and appears to be visibly confused.  He pump-fakes, and then the Steeleers D, led by Harrison, converges on him and pile-drives him into the ground after the whistle.  He, that should’ve been roughing the passer, and I’d expect Harrison and maybe some of his friends to find themselves with a lighter paycheck than normal this week.

3Q 5:00 2-10-TEN42 Sacked at TEN 37 for -5 yards. FUMBLES, recovered by PIT-S.McLendon
Another defensive stop, this one a 6&out, and it’s more trips, this time the usual 2TE/Washington combo to the right, Gage left.  With 3 DL plus the OLBs lined up on the line, they slant right, leaving CJ to pick up James Harrison.  He’s there, but he gets absolutely destroyed and VY “can’t” quite get the ball out before Harrison gets his hand around and knocks the ball out.  Fish challenges the play, but there’s not quite enough evidence to overturn, and VY is stuck.  Two possible things here: despite the line call, Roos maybe should’ve picked up Harrison.  Not sure that’s right.  Alternatively, VY needs to throw the ball faster.

And, that was the end of VY’s day.  Frankly, I’m not sure what to say, aside from that I’m still not sure exactly what VY did or didn’t do that resulted in him getting pulled.  The Titans still have problems-VY struggled at times against the creative 3-4, just like I wrote in Football Outsiders Almanac 2010, and as I wrote in my breakdown of VY’s play against the Chargers.  You want a bigger culprit?  Blame Mike Heimerdinger for putting the offense in bad plays.  Blame Leroy Harris for not missing a block.  Blame Chris Johnson for sucking at blitz pickup.  Blame the Titans receivers for not getting open.