Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Notes from Titans -vs- Bills - Defense

The Titans defense has been much maligned this year with some reason but the bottom line is that this group really came through when it counted against the Bills. I have written about my feelings regarding the team's handling of safety Jordan Babineaux previously so I won't rehash that situation. Babs was part of a group of players that made big plays at the end of the game, and the defense held down the stretch and contributed to a great team victory.

As always, let's start with the defensive line. Once again we have such great rotation at defensive tackle. Jurrell Casey was banged up and didn't record many tackles but he still made his presence felt. Sen'Derrick Marks only recorded 1 QB hit, but he also made his presence felt all. He and the other defensive lineman got some pretty consistent pressure on Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

I continue to be very well impressed with rookie DT Mike Martin. That guy is going to be special. On the last Bills drive with 43 seconds left to play on a 2 and 4 he dropped back into coverage and laid the smackdown on TE Scott Chandler. It was just an outstanding play by the rookie.

I wrote about how Derrick Morgan has simply a great game against the Steelers and he continued to make plays against the Bills. He finished the game with 3 tackles, 2  passes defended and 2 quarterback hits. He consistently got into the mix of things and got consistent pressure.He also recovered a fumble that defensive end Kamerion Wimbley caused.

Speaking of Kamerion Wimbley, if you read the blog you know I'm a fan. He had his best game in my opinion as a Titan, also getting pressure on Fitzpatrick and he is always in the mix of things looking to make a play. His motor paid off against the Bills as he recorded 6 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for a loss. This is all in addition to the fumble he caused. I was particularly impressed with how he was able to break free and make a tackle at 9:23 left to play even with his jersey being held.

Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is still struggling to recover from a high ankle sprain and 6 year man Zach Diles started in his spot and played well until he was injured at 5:48 in the first quarter. Following the game it was determined he had suffered a broken leg and he was subsequently placed on injured reserve.

Diles was replaced by veteran linebacker Will Witherspoon, who had initially replaced McCarthy as the MLB spot when he was injured early in the season. I am a fan of Witherspoon but he easily had his worst game as a Titan. One of the hardest things to watch is age catch up with guys and it appears Father Time has had his way with 'Spoon. Perhaps he has some ailment or injury that hasn't been disclosed but from all appearances he has slowed down and he was generally ineffective. He began splitting snaps with 5th year man Tim Shaw in the 2nd quarter and Shaw played the bulk of the snaps the remainder of the game.

I thought Tim Shaw had a good game at MLB. He finished the game with 4 tackles, 3 solo, and 1 tackle for a loss. He also was active and I was  particularly impressed with how Shaw chased Fitzpatrick down at 6:56 left in the 4th quarter.

Youngsters Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown are coming along nicely. Ayers had 4 tackles, 3 solo and 1 quarterback hit. However, it was Zach Brown who really caught my eye when he made a great play at 6:56 left in the game when he reads the screen play to CJ Spiller and immediately zooms in to make the stop for a 5 yard loss. Just a great read and reaction by the rookie linebacker.

The defensive backs overall played fairly well. Alterran Verner just very quietly does a pretty good job of locking up his man and he very seldom gives up big  plays. Nickel defensive back Ryan Mouton had a very active game and ended up as the 2nd leading tackler with 9 tackles, 7 solo and 1 tackle for a loss. I would like to see him work on his tackling skills.

Jason McCourty let Stevie Johnson get by him on a big play with 6 seconds left in the 3rd quarter but he also had no safety help as Griffin had run in to press the line. I'm not sure what happened there perhaps Griffin read that as a run play or perhaps it was designed as a safety blitz. Regardless, the play went for a 27 yard touchdown. McCourty would later make up for that  play with a Fitzpatrick interception on a 3 and 7 with 3:00 left in the game to get the Titans the ball back and allow them to score. It was McCourty's second INT in two games and the Titans don't win the last two games without them.

Going into this game the Titans had allowed 72 points in the 4th quarter so it was nice to see that trend end. While Stevie Johnson did score at the end of the 3rd, the Titans defense did not allow a score in the 4th quarter against the Bills. One stat you don't like to see though is that the Bills did not punt until late in the 4th quarter.

Finally, I apologize for thinking 3rd year man Al Afalava was a rookie but I am not sorry for pointing out  how well he has played. He recorded 4 tackles in this game, 2 of them solo. He has 61 career tackles, 2 sacks, 7 passes defended and 1 forced fumble. He recorded  the majority of his stats prior to joining the Titans in 2009 during his first year with the Chicago Bears. He is a hard hitting guy and I think we will continue to see him get playing time.

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