Aside from Chris Johnson’s pursuit of 2,000 yards and perhaps Eric Dickerson’s rushing record on Sunday, one thing the Tennessee Titans will be interested to see is how quarterback Vince Young responds to his first sub-par performance of the season.
Young has acquitted himself well thus far in his first nine starts since being reinstalled as the Titans’ starting quarterback, and has been able to shake off bad moments much more easily than he did in his previous tenure as the starter, when interceptions or bad throws seemed to sometimes linger into the next series at times.
But after Friday’s 8 of 21 for 89 yards effort (including three turnovers) against the San Diego Chargers, the Titans are hopeful Young will take the next step and not carry that performance with him on the cross-country flight to Seattle this weekend.
“He put a couple issues behind him the week before. I think he’ll be fine,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of Young. “I’m anxious to watch him play. I know he wants to finish up real strong. I’d like to see him finish up strong.”
After his struggles on Friday night, Young stood at the podium in the interview room and took blame for the 42-17 defeat, although there was plenty of culpability to go around in the Titans locker room. Fisher indicated that that is yet another step in Young’s maturation process.
“That’s part of the process. The quarterback play wasn’t the reason we lost the game,” Fisher said. “The quarterback play wasn’t the reason we were 0-6. We lost the game as a team.”
While Fisher said he would wait until the off-season to discuss the direction of the team’s off-season, Young apparently has established himself as the team’s quarterback of the present and future. Fisher wants to see Young finish the season with a strong effort against the Seahawks.
“I think he’s done a tremendous job up to this point, but it would be nice to finish up. I mentioned this the other day. ... We need to win this game,” Fisher said. “As a football team, as an organization, for guys to play well, specifically guys like Vince, I think it will be important.”
So how many carries will the Titans give Chris Johnson on Sunday? The answer to that is certainly as many as they can to give him a shot at the 128 yards he needs for 2,000. And if he happens to break a long run or two early, then he’ll probably get every chance to go after Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105, of which he is 234 yards shy.
Fisher said the Titans would try to win the game to finish 8-8 after an 0-6 start, but Johnson’s productivity is obviously a key to victory.
“Production in the run game obviously is directly related to us being successful. We have a number of things we want to accomplish as a team,” Fisher said. We want to be 8-8. Just to be able to say we won 8 out of 10 after that start is something to at least build upon as you go into the off-season.
“The 2,000-yard mark is not an individual goal. That’s a team goal. It’s not just C.J. That’s an opportunity for his offensive teammates to be part of the history book. It’s just not just Chris Johnson. It may be on the outside looking in, but it’s not on the inside of this building. It’s a team-oriented goal.”
Fisher said he would be involved in the game and wouldn’t necessarily have a running tally in his head of the yards Johnson needs for his milestone or the record
Defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil’s 15-yard penalty could net him a fine, as well as having to explain the infraction to the head coach.
“I’ve talked to him, and it’s not gonna happen again. When Chuck makes a mistake, he’s the first one to stand up and say he did,” Fisher said. “Chuck said it wasn’t directed toward the officials, it was directed toward the staff on the headset. It will be resolved, and there’s a chance he gets fined for it. But we’ll just move on.”
Cecil was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the heels of a late hit call on William Hayes against Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on Friday night.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he would not have pulled his starters out of the game with an unbeaten record on the line as Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell did in an eventual loss to the New York Jets. Still, he didn’t fault the Colts rookie head coach for the move.
The Colts, who entered game 14-0, led midway through the third quarter when Caldwell pulled quarterback Peyton Manning and others. The Jets came back and picked up a critical win in their quest to claim a wild-card berth. New York (8-7) is now in a win-and-in situation next Sunday night against Cincinnati.
“I think philosophies are different, and they’re left up to the club. That’s the beauty of the league. We all have the luxuries of formulating our own organizational philosophies of what you do and what you don’t do. My personal philosophy would have been to play,” Fisher said. “I have great respect for Coach Caldwell and I’ve been on the committee with Bill Polian for years, and I have great respect for them. It was just kind of one of those things. I think we have to wait and see.
“Yes, the perfect season was affected yesterday. I think everybody really had the sense that if they played their players, they would win the next two games. They didn’t. I think we’ll have to wait and see and go back and ask yourself that question. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the playoffs and see how they do.”