It doesn't seem like it was all that long ago, when you looked at week 14 on the St. Louis Rams schedule and thought they could very well get a win against an equally hard-luck Titans team. Not anymore. The Rams are now 13-point underdogs for their trip to Music City.
The Titans are now playing for a trip to the playoffs, after starting out 0-6. That sixth week of the season featured the Rams overtime loss to the Jaguars and the Titans getting shut out by the Patriots who scored 59 points (running up the score? stay classy Bill). My how things have changed. There are some parallels in the stories of the Rams and Titans this season, maybe a lesson or two even.
Like the Rams, Tennessee has a running back at the center of their offense. Chris Johnson has been collecting ridiculous amounts of yardage. The last time he had fewer than 100 yards on the ground was week five against the Colts, when he had just 34 yards on 9 carries. Steven Jackson, the centerpiece of the Rams offense, has been trying his best to carry the team, but has only been able to do so much for a team unable to make much else happen around him.
The Titans started the season with Kerry Collins at QB. Collins, after all, was at the helm last season when the Titans had a 13-3 season. One more season was more than the 36-year old Collins had left. Through six games he completed just 54.8 percent of his passes and a 5/8 TD to INT ratio. A 2-for-12 performance against the Patriots sealed his fate, and Vince Young replaced him on the last three drives of that game. The Rams started the season with an older QB carrying the signs of abuse much more prominently than many of us had expected. Eventually, a younger backup QB took over, but the similarities end there.
The Rams had Kyle Boller, the Titans had Vince Young ready to take over QB duties. Boller has entered the backup QB stage of his career and has quickly reminded everyone why after a few games. Young still had some potential after struggling in his first two seasons and holding the clipboard for Collins last year. One thing the Titans have done to help Young, besides feed Chris Johnson the ball, has been their re-writing of the offensive script.
Rams fans are continually frsutrated by the logic-defying playcalling coming from the sidelines. It's not the Rams offense has been pass averse, rather the offense has done little more than dink and dump passes that ultimately go nowhere and make things easier for opposing defenses. Just a few more play actions, is that too much to ask? In Tennessee things have been different. The coaching staff there has smartly written a game plan around Chris Johnson and taking advantage of Young's strengths as a QB making lots of option calls and keeping defenses confused. The Rams have done nothing similar to take advantage of Steven Jackson's considerable gifts and their quarterback's lack fo gifts. Of course part of the problem has to do with the receiving options on each team.
Kenny Britt, the Titans first round pick out of Rutgers, has proven to be good get for the Titans. He runs routes well and overcame the pre-draft questions about his concentration, etc and works the middle. Behind him they have Nate Washington, who's been servicable as a role player. They've also used TEs Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler with some effectiveness. The Rams just don't have much going for them at WR. Laurent Robinson was establishing himself as a solid possession guy before he got hurt. Keenan Burton was improving in a similar role when he got hurt. Brandon Gibson looked like he might be that guy, but he's fallen off considerably after his impressive debut against the Saints. Add to that the situation at QB for the Rams.
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