Tampa Bay Sports Day

AFC South Recap

Tennessee 27 Miami 24

It was a cold day in Nashville as the game began and the Titans started the same, as Vince Young’s first pass, on the first play of day was picked off. It set off a chorus of boos from the crowd that knew how important this game was. These were two teams playing for the playoffs and the Dolphins had been on a roll lately. Miami stood at 7-6 and Tennessee at 6-7 with the loser falling another notch in the wild-card race. So on the possession set up by the interception, the Dolphins were able to get a field goal for a 3-0 lead. Now it was time for Young to make up for that mistake. The thing that has been so noticeable about Young has been the improvement in his decision-making. Last year and before he would quickly throw the ball away or run when it was not beneficial to his team. He was unable to find the consistency to keep defenses honest. This year he was put in a situation unlike he ever faced in his life on the football field. He had to prove himself and earn the trust of those around him. So the Titans found themselves needing to win out and needing Young to continue his evolution into an NFL quarterback. What he showed on this Sunday was just that as he made some of the prettiest throws of his career. He hit Justin Gage on touchdown passes of 22 and 21 yards that were unlike any he has ever thrown. His third touchdown pass was another beauty to Nate Washington but the 24-6 lead from that play would not hold up. Now critics will come up with reasons as to why they let the Fins back in the game, but it was simply because they took their foot off the gas pedal. They got complacent with the lead and let Miami back in and tie the score when Ricky Williams ran in the two-point conversion. So it was 24-24 and the Titans got the ball back but had to punt it after a three-and-out. Punter Brett Kern came in did his job putting the ball on the two-yard line with little time for the Dolphins to get down the field. What they did was run the ball so they could run out the clock. At that point the Titans had three time outs and the fans let the boos fly as Fisher allowed the clock to run. He said it was a gut feeling of his not to use the timeouts. Lucky for him he was right or the media would have eaten him alive this week. In the game Chris Johnson’s pursuit of 2,000 yards took a hit as he once again had a tough second half. Last week he had 16 carries for 30 yards and this week had 15 for 33 in the second half.  Teams are keying hard on him now but he said that he might have a 200 or 300-yard game left in him. He will have to average 135 yards per in the last two to get to that elusive mark (2,000) and needs 376 yards to pass Eric Dickerson’s NFL mark of 2,105 yards. He wound up with 104 yards on 29 carries. He will continue to get the ball in the last two games so hang on for the ride. In the game the Titans lost the heart and soul of their defense when Keith Bullock hurt his knee and he must now have season ending surgery. Also gone for the year is LB David Thornton, as he will go under the knife for a shoulder problem he has had. So there are two more games left and Tennessee needs a lot of help from other teams. They must also win out as well. One thing ought to be a sure thing and that would be votes for Jeff Fisher for coach of the year. No matter how the season ends you have to give credit to this coach and team for coming out of a 0-6 hole to .500 after week 15.

Indianapolis 35 Jacksonville 31

Even when it looks like the Colts are going down in defeat, they find a way to win. Peyton Manning continued to stake his claim for MVP as he went 23-30 for 308 yards and four touchdowns. He started early on this night as he hit Dallas Clark and Austin Collie in the second quarter for a 21-17 halftime lead. It was a first half that also saw Maurice Jones-Drew score twice, when he caught one from nine yards out and ran another in from three in that second quarter. The teams had traded scores in the first half and the theme would continue in the second. Jacksonville was sharp as was QB David Garrard and they came out and scored at the 8:32 mark of the third to take the lead back. Just like the sun rising is a sure thing so is Manning as he directed his team down the field and hit Clark again for a 27-yard touchdown. That made it 28-24 and it looked like that would all the Jags could handle. Well they forgot to tell Jacksonville and they answered the Colts right back when Mike Thomas pulled in a 13-yard pass from Garrard to make it 31-28 Jags with 47 seconds left in the third. Jacksonville just wishes there was that much time left in the game because a whole quarter is too much time for Manning to do damage. So the fourth quarter got underway and two teams that had not punted in the first half punted five times. No one could get the advantage until Manning finally put the dagger in the Jags when he hit Reggie Wayne down the left sideline for 65-yards and the winning score. So now the Colts are 14-0 and the only undefeated team in the league after the Saints lost to Dallas. Manning now has thrown for 4,000 yards or more in a season 10 times. The closest one to him is the great Dan Marino with six. As for the Jags, well they have now lost control of their destiny and will need help to get into the postseason. At 7-7 they find themselves in the pack with other 7-7 teams. Jones-Drew finished with 110 yards on 27 carries and Garrard was 23-40 for 223 yards, three scores and a pick. They are still in it but have to hit the road for their last two games of the year. They will first go to New England where the Pats are fighting for their division crown and playoff positioning. Then they finish at Cleveland against a Browns team that has been playing inspired ball and just come off two of the best single-game performances in NFL history. Kick returner Josh Cribbs returned two kicks for touchdowns and running back Jerome Harrison ran for the third best total in history with 286 yards and three touchdowns. The Colts finish by hosting the Jets and then going to Buffalo so their chances at 16-0 look good.

Houston 16 St. Louis 13

In a season that has basically gone bad the Texans found a way to keep the Rams in the game. They drove down the field at times but had to settle for three Kris Brown field goals and one touchdown pass from Matt Schaub. Though they had to struggle, Schaub had 367 yards passing giving him eight games with at least 300 yards and his fifth game with at least 350. Andre Johnson had another great game with nine catches for 196 yards but became the second player in the last 10 years to have that many yards and not catch a touchdown pass. The running game on the other hand was anemic gaining just 52 yards total and they were 5-14 on third down. They lost two fumbles as well but the defense did hold the Rams to 237 total yards. So no Houston is at 7-7 and they go to Miami next week in a key battle of 7-7 teams. They finish the season at home but that will be a tall task as the will be hosting the Patriots. There is still shot at the playoffs but hopes are dimming. In the next few weeks we will also get a clearer picture on the fate of head coach Gary Kubiak.