For a half Sunday, two of the more discussed, debated and dissected members of the Tennessee Titans didn’t look half bad.
For a half, Kenny Britt fully looked the part of an elite receiver, one who had the ability to gain yards in chunks and cause problems for an opposing defense.
Also for a half, Derrick Morgan created a whole lot of havoc from his spot at left defensive end. He was difficult to block and even if he did not make a tackle he often forced the action toward someone who did.
Whether they played half-hearted of half — you know what — after that, the performances of those first-round draft choices in the Titans’ 27-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts was indicative of the team’s play as a whole. There was a lot to like early on, some things we thought we’d never see again or at all. After halftime, well … that was a different story.
On the first play of the game quarterback Jake Locker threw to Britt for nine yards. His third pass went to Britt for 10 yards. Then came a 16-yard completion. Things got really interesting in the second quarter when the two hooked up for a pair of 46-yard completions, one down the right side of the field and one down the left.
That was five receptions for 127 yards – all in the first half, of course. Already that was as many catches as Britt had in any of the previous eight games and made it his first 100-yard receiving effort in well over a year. Heck, in seven of the 10 games he played this season he did not have 46 yards overall, never mind on a single catch.
This was the guy who dominated Tennessee’s first two opponents in 2011 before a serious knee injury sidelined him. This was the guy teammates, coaches and fans had waited so long to see again.
Then he all but vanished. Britt finished with eight catches for 143 yards. That’s three catches for 16 yards in the second half.
The first time Colts quarterback Andrew Luck dropped back to pass, he threw incomplete due — in part — to pressure from Morgan. Early in the second quarter Morgan sacked Luck for a loss of eight yards. The next time the Colts got the ball, Morgan’s pass rush forced a throw that linebacker Will Witherspoon intercepted and returned 40 yards for a touchdown.
This was the guy who was drafted three years ago to energize the pass rush. In some ways, it was the first or best public glimpse of what Titans scouts saw in him at Georgia Tech, before the knee and hamstring injuries that sapped his explosion and reduced him to anonymity (other than the many complaints about him, that is).
Early in the second half he jumped offside and shortened a Colts’ third-down challenge, which they failed to convert anyway. It set a bad precedent, though. Sen’Derrick Marks did the same thing early in the fourth quarter, except that it was third-and-2 and the penalty made it first down. That drive ultimately ended with the field goal that put Indianapolis on top to stay.
Britt and Morgan were not the sole reason the Titans blew a 13-point halftime lead and lost their third straight. Likewise, they were not completely responsible for that lead. But they had a lot to do with each.
When a team’s best players play their best, good things happen. That was the case exactly through the first two quarters.
When those same players make mistakes or fail to distinguish themselves, it is tough for the team to accomplish anything.
Britt and Morgan were drafted in the first round in 2009 and 2010, respectively, for a reason — to be the Titans’ best players.
For a half, that’s just what they were. That’s a whole lot better than they’ve been a lot of other times, but still was not good enough.