I woke up early to watch the video of the St. Louis Rams' win last night. Compulsive. Sick. Sunday mornings are for sleeping in, not watching preseason football, not at Turf Show Times. Truth be told, I have yet to make it past the first half of the game, rewinding and watching plays over and over again. A few series from the starters will be interesting to break down, but let's start with the Rams defense and the Titans' first quarter touchdown drive, the one that resulted from Sam Bradford's interception.
To start with, the defense was back on the field after barely more than a minute and a half, after working for five and a half minutes on the Titan's first possession. Not exactly a break, but it is early enough in the game that it shouldn't be a huge problem. Of course, the preseason and just a few weeks in camp, maybe there was a little rust because it's early. Maybe.
Let's look at the scoring drive.
1-10-SL 19 (8:05) J.Harper right tackle to SL 17 for 2 yards (F.Robbins).
The pile moves to the right. Robbins gets off his man well enough to make the stop. James Laurinaitis is right there as well.
2-8-SL 17 (7:31) J.Harper left guard to SL 13 for 4 yards (Q.Mikell).
Hasselback hands it off to Harper, who makes a nice cut to his right just as he gets to the line of scrimmage. The Titans offensive line goes Moses and parts the middle, which gives Harper enough space to make his cut count for an extra yard. Bryan Kehl misses a tackle that allows Harper to scratch out a couple more yards. Up front, on the snap, Justin Bannan gets doubled up and takes all three to the turf. It helps make the running lane a little bigger. To Bannan's left, Fred Robbins is blocked, but Robbins still manages to be move toward the ball, helping clog Harper's running area and allowing Mikell to make the stop.
3-4-SL 13 (6:58) M.Hasselbeck pass short right to A.Hall to SL 1 for 12 yards (B.Kehl; J.Laurinaitis).
By this point, it's clear that the Titans are committed to the run, and the Rams defense responds accordingly. They line up in the base formation. Only the front four pressure at the snap. Hasselbeck fakes a handoff to his left, and the Rams don't bite. The corner stays with the receiver, keeping him covered into the end zone. Chris Long, on the offense's right, sees the QB rolling out. He can't pursue Hasselbeck, so he stays with him to stop a scramble, which gives the fullback just enough of a jump into the flat where he is complete uncovered.
And why is nobody covering the flat? Ask Bryan Kehl. He comes up to the line at the snap, and gets caught out of position. In that alignment, the weakside linebacker has a be thinking contain, something he can't do when he's across the line of scrimmage, inside the defensive end, after the snap. Bad play by Kehl here.
Quintin Mikell runs up from his zone to make the play, but misses the tackle. It might have prevented the first down, but not by much. It does slow the Titans' FB enough for Kehl to make the stop from behind, though Laurinaitis and Ron Bartell probably could have saved the touchdown...on that play anyway.
1-1-SL 1 (6:19) J.Harper up the middle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
From here, it's relatively easy to punch it in, especially with the way the Titans' offensive line had been playing.
It was a rough series for the entire defense, featuring missed tackles and a badly blown assignment. It happens. The Titans got the ball on an INT and a penalty put it inside the 20-yard line. They were bound to get some points on that. Hopefully, the missed tackles and an uncovered flat are just signs of normal preseason rust; it sure looked that way. Still, don't be surprised to see a change at linebacker this week.