Boclair: Titans' passing game passed test in Cleveland but must get better

Monday, October 3, 2011 at 12:20am

Perform a cursory examination of the Tennessee Titans’ third straight victory — Sunday’s 31-13 rout of the Cleveland Browns — and it seems as if all is well with the passing game.

The Titans made hay when they needed to, namely the first half when quarterback Matt Hasselbeck racked up 194 yards and three touchdowns on just eight completions.

Keep in mind, it was Britt, now lost for the season to a serious knee injury, who topped 100 yards receiving in each of the first two weeks of the season. And it was Britt who scored all three Titans’ receiving touchdowns in those two contests.

The general feeling was that it would take more than one player to replace him now that he’s gone for the season. That’s exactly what happened.

The three touchdown passes against the Browns went to three different receivers. Likewise, three different players had a reception of 20 yards or more. Only one — tight end Jared Cook — was included in both groups of three.

So Britt’s big plays and his points were spread throughout the wide receivers and tight ends, and it was the right guys who did the right things. Cook was pegged long ago as a guy with unique, big-play ability. Damian Williams, who started in Britt’s place, scored the last of the touchdowns.

Perfect, right? Not quite.

Hasselbeck completed just shy of 70 percent of his passes prior to Sunday. Against Cleveland, that number fell to 50 percent (10-for-20), which was his lowest since the final game of the 209 regular season.

It is easy to say that the falling rain and the steady breeze off of Lake Erie had something to do with that. It is just as easy to say that the Cleveland defense, which came into the game near the top of the league against the pass, had something to do with it.

Yet it also was easy to see that there were several throws — primarily in the direction of Cook and Williams — that were nowhere near being caught.

In fact, the vast majority of passes intended for those two missed the mark.

Cook’s big day included an 80-yard score on a catch-and-run down the left sideline and a total of 93 yards on two catches. Six times, though, Hasselbeck threw in his direction.

Williams scored the first touchdown of his career on a well-executed four-yard pass to the back corner of the end zone. That was his only reception among the four times he was targeted.

In other words, Hasselbeck completed 30 percent (3-for-10) of his throws to those two. When it came to the rest of the team, he hit on 70 percent (7-for-10), which is right in line with what he had done in the first three games overall.

Hasselbeck’s completion percentage on throws to Britt was 65.3 (17-26). Even at their worst — the Jacksonville game — those two connected 50 percent of the time (five out of 10).

Cook and Williams did some good things Sunday. Things that helped the Titans defeat the Browns. Things that Kenny Britt might have done had he been able to run and jump.

Cook and Williams also had plays where it was clear they thought one thing while Hasselbeck thought something else. Based on what we’ve seen out of the new quarterback, the safe money is that the receivers were in the wrong.

Going forward, they must be better or the passing game is going to be worse than it was Sunday, which was the worst it’s been thus far.

1 Comment on this post:

By: tn.native on 10/4/11 at 12:00

The timing routes are undergoing a learning curve now that Britt is off the playlist but that will improve with time. There are a lot of good receivers that will get more touches on Sunday. This game could be decided by discipline at the line of scrimmage. With Ben R. being a little banged up and the Steelers defense not playing as well as in the past there could be communication problems with another quarterback. It will be interesting to see how the pass rush for both teams works out. If the Titan's defense continues to play well and be opportunistic, especially in the secondary, they will win the game. Nobody thought the Titans would be where they are with CJ just getting his first 100 yard game and Britt on the sidelines. Hasselbeck's play has been,"good enough" to get the wins but a lot has to go to the spirit and chemistry of the team to be where they are now. That's a credit to Munch.