Vince: Vini, Vidi, Vici

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December 10, 2006
Vince: Vini, Vidi, Vici

by Bob Hulsey

Now we know how USC felt.

Facing a third-and-14 on the first possession of overtime, Vince Young stepped through the Houston blitz and danced 39 yards to the end zone giving the Tennessee Longhorns a 26-20 comeback victory before a packed house of mixed emotions.

The 4-9 Texans are in danger of becoming the third favorite pro football team in Texas – after the Cowboys and the former Oilers, now 6-7.

Young’s scamper capped a day where he ran the offense more like a veteran and less like the draft pick the Texans spurned last April. He threw for 218 yards and rushed for 86, perhaps not the eye-popping numbers of his Rose Bowl triumphs but probably the most satisfying victory of his professional career.

Yes, it had a few bumps in the road. There were two sacks and an interception by Demarcus Faggins just as the fourth quarter began which came after Young slipped on the terrible Texan quag-o-turf and then got up to hurry his throw.

You can’t pin this loss on David Carr though. The Texan signal-caller played as the offense was designed, completing 17-of-23 for 140 yards. Unlike last week, he did not fumble and threw no interceptions. His only negative was a new wrinkle – finding ways to throw the ball away after crossing the line of scrimmage. That happened twice but did not seriously affect the outcome.

After falling behind 6-0, the Texans brought out Ron Dayne to jumpstart the running game. Running less each week like Taylor Dayne, the former Heisman Trophy winner pushed for 37 rushing yards as well as ten more through the air in the second stanza. Dayne finished a 9-play, 54-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown over right guard to give Houston a thin 7-6 edge going into halftime.

Dayne scored again on a two-yard burst to cap a 10-play, 73-yard drive that opened the third quarter. Houston looked in command, up 14-6.

Young led the Titans back on the next drive to the Houston 31, but Tennessee was forced to punt. On his next possession, Young connected with Drew Bennett for 39 yards then let halfback Travis Henry do the rest. Three plays later, the Titans were just a point shy at 14-13.

After Faggins’ interception, the Texans drove close enough for a 49-yard field goal by Kris Brown to lead, 17-13. The Titans answered as Young and Henry took turns running through the Houston defense until Henry completed the 15-play, 88-yard drive with a two-yard thrust as Tennessee regained the lead, 20-17.

Could Carr and the Texans step up in their home stadium? Yes and no. Carr completed a sideline route to Andre Johnson for 21 yards, but Johnson was two yards shy of the first down on the next series, forcing a 46-yard boot from Brown to tie the score.

Tennessee had two minutes to pull the game out in regulation play. They got great field position on a quirky officials’ ruling when the kickoff hopped around at the Titan 20 untouched. David Anderson dived for it which would have given the Texans the ball right there with a chance to win but the ball squirted out of bounds which gave Tennessee possession at their own 40.

Young’s magic didn’t work this time. The Titans were forced to punt but Dexter Wynn chose not to field the kick. Through much controversy, Houston took over at their own seven with little time left and no timeouts. Carr kneeled twice as some booed. It was the last time he would have the ball.

Before time expired, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak brought his entire team together for a short pep talk. Whatever he said didn’t help.

Tennessee won the overtime coin toss and Adam Jones ran it out to his own 43. A defensive holding call and a gashing run by Chris Brown put the ball at the Texans 35. Surely visions of another long field goal from Rob Bironas, like the ones he had kicked to beat both Mannings in the past two weeks, flashed into the minds of many.

A holding call marched the Titans back ten before Brown got five back and a sideline throw netted an extra yard. It was third-and-14. Time for the local legend to add to his laurels.

What Went Right?

No Turnovers
After last week’s debacle and some other noted setbacks, it was refreshing to see the offense hang onto the ball the entire game. No gifts to the opposition meant the Titans had to work most of the field to put points on the board.

The Running Dayne
For the second week in a row, Ron Dayne came off the bench to spark the ground attack. He finished with 21 carries for 87 yards. He also benefitted from some nice blocking up front, something that hasn’t always been the case with this offense. Giving Carr a chance to run play-action slowed the pass rush and opened up the offense.

When the stat sheet shows your top tacklers are your linebackers, not your defensive backs, it means the defense is improving. Morlon Greenwood had nine tackles, one assist and a forced fumble. Demeco Ryans had eight tackles and six assists.

What Went Wrong?

Blitzing Vince Young
Sure, he’s a raw kid and the blitz can confuse a young quarterback, but most young quarterbacks aren’t capable of dashing through it to paydirt like Young. He’s fast enough to outrun half the defense and strong enough to break tackles by the other half. Why on earth would you want to give this guy an excuse to run?

Run Defense
Accolades to the linebackers aside, this defense continues to allow gaping runs against good and awful teams alike. Allowing 218 yards on the ground is just not very good.

Lack of the Big Play
Perhaps we should just be thankful it isn’t worse but the Texans rarely step up to make the critical play. Whether it is a big turnover, a long pass completion or a crucial third-down conversion, this team lacks playmakers.

Key Play Of The Game

You can read all about Young’s touchdown scramble at the top of this page and watch endless replays of it the next few weeks, but I’ll put in a plug for a small minor move by Titans coach Jeff Fisher that played a key role. After Henry’s first touchdown, the conventional wisdom says you should go for two points to tie the score at 14-14. Fisher instead kicked the extra point and allowed the Texans a one-point lead. Had a two-point conversion try failed, the Titans would have wound up losing the game by a point in regulation.

Game 13 Recap Titans QB Vince Young runs 39 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Final Score Houston Texans 20 Tennessee Titans 26 Lookin’ Good

Demarcus Faggins
Our defensive Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde had an outstanding day. He recovered an early fumble, swatted away two critical third down throws and made an interception. He may not feel that way though, after going down twice to injury in the fourth quarter.

Oh, my eyes!

The Grounds Crew
Players from both teams slipped and slid on the turf all day. This is supposed to be a professional football field for an indoor stadium. There’s really no excuse for the field playing like McAfee Coliseum in a heavy downpour. Maybe they should just put in Field Turf if the crew can’t grow grass properly.

2006 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.12 Kansas City 24-14 08.19 St. Louis 27-20 08.27 at Denver 14-17 08.31 Tampa Bay 16-13 Regular Season 09.10 Philadelphia 10-24 09.17 at Indianapolis 24-43 09.24 Washington 15-31 10.01 Miami 17-15 10.08 Bye 10.15 at Dallas 6-34 10.22 Jacksonville 27-7 10.29 at Tennessee 22-28 11.05 at NY Giants 10-14 11.12 at Jacksonville 13-10 11.19 Buffalo 21-24 11.26 at NY Jets 11-26 12.03 at Oakland 23-14 12.10 Tennessee 20-26 12.17 at New England 7-40 12.24 Indianapolis 27-24 12.31 Cleveland 14-6   Overall Record 6-10