It has been a tale of two seasons for the Tennessee Titans in 2009. After losing the first six games of the 2009 campaign, the Titans are going to need all the help they can get for any chance, no matter how slim it may be, of reaching the postseason.
Drastic times call for drastic measures, and starting a season at 0-6 (especially after finishing the prior season with the NFL’s best record) certainly qualifies as a drastic time. The downward spiral in Nashville culminated in week six of the season, during which the winless Titans gave up a record-setting FIVE touchdown passes to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots during one quarter, all on the way to a 59-0 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots. Mercifully, the Titans followed that game with a bye week where extra time was taken to evaluate and retool the game plan. As part of the retooling, Titans head coach Jeff Fisher announced the decision to start Vince Young over 2008 Pro Bowler Kerry Collins at the quarterback position.
Since Young’s return to the starting role the Titans have found new life. Thanks to a combination of Young’s revitalized play and some MONSTER performances turned in by running back Chris Johnson, the NFL’s leading rusher, Tennessee won each of the last four games leading up to yesterday and were at least in the discussion as long shots for one of the AFC Wild Card spots.
Considering only one team in history has ever reached the playoffs after losing the first four games of the season (the 1992 San Diego Chargers), and NO team has ever reached the postseason after starting the season at 0-5 (let alone 0-6), the simple fact that the Titans were even getting mentioned for the playoffs before Sunday’s game was a major victory, although the team was nowhere near out of the woods yet. The margin for error in Nashville is virtually gone. The Titans need to finish the season in near perfect fashion to remain in contention, and even that may not even be enough. In order to successfully finish an improbable postseason run, the Titans also require a great deal of assistance from many other teams currently in the hunt.
This weekend, the Titans received a lot of that help!
The team once again helped its own cause thanks to OUTSTANDING contributions by Vince Young and Chris Johnson. Johnson dominated on the ground as he tied an NFL record with his sixth straight 125 plus yard game on the ground, including an 85-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter of the game. But, it was Young who would become the hero. With less than three minutes remaining in the game, Young orchestrated a 99-yard drive down the field to lead the Titans to a stunning 20-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Elsewhere in the AFC, many other teams seemed more than willing to lend assistance to the Titans’ cause. Entering yesterday’s matchups, the Titans trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (6-4), Denver Broncos (6-4), Baltimore Ravens (5-5), Miami Dolphins (5-5), and the Houston Texans (5-5) in contention for the two AFC Wild Card seeds. Of those six teams, only the Broncos and Ravens managed to win, allowing the Titans to draw within one game of the current Wild Card leaders for the 2009 Playoff Race.
Although the Titans face the biggest test of the “new” season this week against Peyton Manning and the 11-0 Indianapolis Colts, right now they are one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL thanks to new life behind Vince Young and Chris Johnson, who needs only to average 120.8 rushing yards per game to reach 2,000 total rushing yards for the season (with 1,396 rushing yards and a 126.9 yards per game average already this season, he is on target to reach 2030 by week 17), making him only the sixth person in NFL history to reach that mark. The Titans have rallied around their stars once more, and have completely turned the season around.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Titans took advantage of every opportunity they were presented with this past weekend, and once again refused to concede the season.