NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six things standing out for the Titans after Sunday's win over the Texans, and heading into this week's game against the Jaguars.
Flashback to 2003
Leading up to – and after Sunday's game – I had flashbacks to the 2003 season. The Titans traveled to Foxborough, Mass., during the regular season that year to face a Patriots team ravaged by injuries. The Patriots were without linebackers Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson and Mike Vrabel for the October 5 game, not to mention nose tackle Ted Washington and running back Kevin Faulk. With seven opening-day starters on the inactive list, not many folks gave them a chance against a good Titans team. But the Patriots went out and beat the Titans, as little-known running back Mike Cloud averaged 10 yards per carry, and scored two touchdowns. Vrabel knows all about the no-excuses, next-man-up approach from his days with the Patriots, and he's already instilled the mindset on his football team in Tennessee. It's why he avoided the woe-is-me talk leading up to the game, and it's why his team – and a large number of backups – rose to the occasion on Sunday.
A Lion in the Wildcat
Props to offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, and Vrabel, for breaking out the Wildcat on Sunday. Will we see it again vs. the Jaguars? Well, we'll see. They say a cat has nine lives. On a day when the team played without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Titans went looking for sparks. Running back Derrick Henry looked like a lion lined up in the Wildcat, lowering his shoulder and powering his way for yards after taking the direct snap on several plays. His push pass to receiver Taywan Taylor produced a nice gain. The Titans showed some imagination against the Texans. Could we see the triple option for a series or two in Duval? Stay tuned.
Physical Corey Davis
Mariota's stiff-arm against the Jaguars in last season's finale was turned into a t-shirt by Titans super fan Chilly Pepper. As we've seen time and again, Henry uses his right hand to give him space, and deliver punishing blows. But did you catch Titans receiver Corey Davis throwing the Texans defender off of him on Sunday? It was eye-opening. Davis had a good day, catching five passes for 55 yards, including an 18-yard grab late. What's encouraging is seeing him playing with a swagger, which was on full display in the home opener at Nissan Stadium.
Vrabel went for it on fourth down in the season opener at Miami, and it didn't work. He was gutsy – some called him crazy – when the Titans opted to go for it on a 4th and 1 from their own 31 in Sunday's game. The Titans got the necessary yardage on a quarterback sneak, so Vrabel avoided any criticism that surely would have come his way. Vrabel told his team in the locker room after the game he's going to continue being aggressive, reflecting on the fake punt that produced a touchdown as well. I couldn't help but wonder if he considered going for it on 4th and 1 late, rather than kicking a field goal with a minute on the clock, to keep the Texans from getting their hands on the ball again. If successful, Ryan Succop's kick would have been at the horn. It turns out Vrabel has his limits. "I wouldn't have come to work today if we would have gone for that," he replied.
Relentless Effort from Casey
Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey is a tone-setter, a guy who lets his play speak for him. He said a lot with his performance on Sunday, and his early season effectiveness is a good sign moving forward. Casey added a few pounds to his frame during the offseason, something he thought would allow him to be more disruptive while battling double-teams. Well, he had two sacks against Houston, which was impressive. What got my attention even more was Casey's all-out play. On the game's final play on Sunday he kept coming at Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson before the ball eventually left his hand. The game ended, but Casey's effort made a lasting impression.
Titans linebacker Kamalei Correa has made his presence known since being acquired by the team via trade. The former Raven has two sacks in two games, and he was especially active against the Texans. So active, I was shocked when I looked at the playing time stats and noticed he played just 16 snaps in the game. It sure seemed like more. The Titans got plenty of bang for their buck in those 16 snaps – he had a sack, two quarterback hits, three tackles, and two assists. I like Correa's energy and hustle, and I suspect he's only going to get better with additional playing time.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Jacksonville Jaguars.