Young enjoys his first TD pass trifecta

Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 8:13pm
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Vince Young tossed three touchdown passes, but used his legs on several key runs, including this third-down gallop that kept a scoring drive alive. / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

Vince Young enjoyed the first three-touchdown pass game of his NFL career in Sunday’s 27-24 overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins.

In the process, the Tennessee Titans quarterback now has as many touchdown passes this season in just eight starts as he had in all of 2007 when he started 15 games. His career high in TD passes is 12, set his rookie season of 2006.

Young fired two touchdown passes to Justin Gage of 22 and 21 yards, and a 32-yarder to Nate Washington, giving him nine touchdown passes for the year.

The biggest difference: In 2007, Young was intercepted 18 times, and in 2009, he has only been picked off four times, including once Sunday on the opening drive on a tip drill play that at least three players hit before Vontae Davis pulled it out of the air. And as Davis returned the ball, it was Young, who tackled him with a fierce blow charging full speed.

Young, playing on a sore hamstring that kept him out of practice on Wednesday, completed 14 of 27 throws for 236 yards. His 103.3 passer rating marks the sixth time in eight starts Young has had a passer rating of 90 or better.

Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger kept on Young, urging him to not let his sore leg bother him on the field.

“One of the biggest things Heimerdinger was saying on the sidelines was to quit thinking about your hamstring and your leg and stuff like that, just go out there and play,” Young said. “A couple of series I was thinking about it and, then some series, I was like, forget it, man, let’s just go out here and try to make something happen.”

Young was able to do that, exploiting some one-on-one matchups against the Dolphins secondary, leading to the three TD passes.

”We got one-on-one coverage outside, and it was important for our wide receivers to separate like they did, and Vince made some good plays,” Heimerdinger said. “We got the balls where we wanted one-on-one, because they had given up some deep balls. We thought we could get some and it worked out that way.”

Young tossed his first TD in between Miami’s Gibril Wilson and Nathan Jones, and Gage made a leaping grab.

On the second score, Gage stumbled out of his break, but still made a diving catch for the TD.

“My feet got tangled up with the defender, so I just had to gather myself and not lose control,” Gage said. “I saw the ball in the air and had an opportunity at it. From there, it was just the old receiver rule, go and get it.”

Tests for Bulluck

Linebacker Keith Bulluck will have to have tests done on his injured right knee after suffering the injury with 5:33 remaining in the third quarter of Sunday’s 27-24 overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Bulluck’s left knee buckled on a run by Miami’s Lex Hilliard just before the Dolphins kicked a field goal that cut the Titans’ lead to 24-9.

Bulluck returned to the sideline in street clothes to watch the remainder of the game.

“We will have to get some tests in the morning,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

Colin Allred replaced Bulluck, as the Titans were already without David Thornton, who was inactive with a shoulder injury. Rookie Gerald McRath played in his spot.

Bulluck has been a stalwart on the Titans defense, making 127 consecutive starts at linebacker. He will have to be a quick healer, as the Titans have a short week with the San Diego Chargers visiting on Christmas night to LP Field.

That left Stephen Tulloch as the Titans linebacker in the nickel package and the player to call the defensive signals in place of Bulluck.

“I’m the type of guy that I’m going to lead by example and let my play speak for itself,” Tulloch said of the rarity of being the most experienced linebacker on the field.

The Titans defense did suffer some, as Miami rolled up 188 yards and 18 points after Bulluck left the field on Sunday.

Typical CJ day

Chris Johnson had his ninth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, finishing with 104 yards on 29 carries. He became only the eighth running back in league history to have at least nine consecutive games of at least 100 yards.

Johnson now has 1,730 yards and will need 270 over the final two games to become the sixth running back in NFL history to reach 2,000 yards. For now, Eric Dickerson’s league record of 2,105 looks to be a long shot, as Johnson would now need 376 in two games to eclipse that.

“It’s getting tougher every week,” Johnson said. “Everybody wants to stop me, stop our running game. But this is opening stuff up for Vince, giving him a chance to throw down the field and for our receivers to make big plays.”

Johnson’s biggest play of the game was a 41-yard screen pass from Young. It appeared he might have a chance to score, but safety Tyrone Culver got the angle on Johnson, who slowed down to give guard Eugene Amano a chance to block a Dolphins player.

Curious move

After the Titans failed to move the ball when the Dolphins tied the game at 24-all with 3:02 to play, Brett Kern’s punt rolled dead at the Miami 2. Ricky Williams gained four yards on first down, but the Titans, armed with all three timeouts, did not stop the clock with 56 seconds to play and facing second-and-6 at the 6.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher explained it this way.

“We went three-and-out,” Fisher said. “My gut feeling a lot of times, I make decisions like that, I gut feel. What I didn’t want to do was call timeout, send a signal to them and force them to take a shot and make a big play down the field, then they had three timeouts. We had our chance to win the game in regulation. We didn’t get it, so I was playing for a tie.”

That move could have backfired when the Dolphins won the coin toss, but Fisher and the Titans were bailed out by Michael Griffin’s interception in overtime to set up the winning field goal.