Kenny Britt perhaps provided a glimpse a bright future, while Vince Young managed to shake off the frustrations of his recent past in the Tennessee Titans 27-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at LP Field Saturday night.
The highlight of the night came the two hooked on a third-quarter 37-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that put the Titans ahead 13-12.
Young, who came off the bench in his first home action since last year’s bizarre set of occurrences in the season opener, completed 9 of 14 passes for 131 yards and score, looking confident and sharp in his decision-making.
It was Young’s decision to step up in the pocket and forgo a potential scramble for a first down that led him to find a wide-open Britt, benefiting from a blown Buccaneers coverage, for the touchdown.
“That’s one thing Coach [Mike][ Heimerdinger has been telling me, use your legs and keep the ball alive and keep your eyes downfield,” Young said. “That’s basically what I did. I saw the safety didn’t get back to his area in cover two where he was supposed to be at, and Kenny adjusted his route to a go like he’s supposed to and I got the ball to him.”
Britt’s explanation of the play on the other end was exactly the same, as he adjusted to the safety leaving his spot, allowing him to camp under the throw for the easy go-ahead touchdown.
“They busted the coverage and I just kept on going. About 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, I saw the safety go down and I knew there wasn’t any way he was going for it. I saw Vince scramble, so I just kept it going,” Britt said.
Two other rookies helped Tennessee blow the game open in the second half, as running back Javon Ringer scampered 36 yards for a third-quarter touchdown, and rookie cornerback Ryan Mouton followed that with a 29-yard return of a Josh Freeman interception for a TD that put the Titans up 27-12.
It was an impressive start for Britt, who also caught a 38-yard pass from Young in the first half and finished his first game as a pro with five catches for 89 yards before leaving at the end of the third quarter with a right ankle injury after he was stepped on.
“I felt real comfortable. I got with the coaches and they said they didn’t want to put more on my shoulders than they felt I could handle,” Britt said.
For the Titans starters, the home opener was somewhat less than crisp on offense.
Starting quarterback Kerry Collins was intercepted twice, including in the end zone on the opening drive on an underthrown pass for Nate Washington. Collins was only 4 of 9 for 37 yards.
“That’s why preseason is good. You can make those mistakes and they don’t hurt you,” Collins said. “I know I need to make better decisions on a couple of things, but that’s why we do it. I’ll learn from it, and we’ll move on.”
The second of Collins’ picks came from defensive lineman Stylez White off a deflection to himself, catching it as he was lying on the ground. It led to the Buccaneers first touchdown, a 24-yard toss from Byron Leftwich to Brian Clark.
More sloppy play from the Titans gave the Buccaneers a safety in the second quarter, as Collins was sacked for a 10-yard loss, Chris Johnson was stopped for a 5-yard loss and the struggles were culminated with Craig Stevens’ being called for holding in the end zone on the fourth-down punt for a safety and a 9-3 Buccaneers lead.
Tennessee’s first team defense gave a strong account of itself Saturday night, holding the Buccaneers to 1 of 9 on third down in the first half and getting a forced fumble from Cortland Finnegan on Earnest Graham that David Thornton picked up and returned to the Bucs 22. Tennessee turned that into Rob Bironas’ 36-yard first-quarter field goal.
“I thought we played well tonight,” Finnegan said of the defensive effort. “We were able to get in a groove. We weren’t able to get in that groove during the Hall of Fame Game. So it was nice to get that in this game.”
Prior to that, the defense would have had a touchdown, but Tony Brown grabbed the facemask of quarterback Luke McCown as he was sacking him and forcing a fumble that William Hayes had carried into the end zone.
Despite the lapses, the Titans defense held up well, considering they had very little to go on regarding the Buccaneers offense, which was playing its first preseason game under new coach Raheem Morris and new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski.
“We picked up where we left off last week,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “We went out and made the plays we were supposed to make. We didn’t have a chance to game plan against these guys really, so we went out there just calling our calls and running our defenses.”
But the story of this night belonged to the rookie first-round pick and especially to Young, who battled issues both on and off the field a year ago, but on Saturday night got his first chance at redemption for a lost season in 2008.
"Sitting back the whole year and watching Kerry play and taking what the defense gives him," Young said, "that's basically what I've been doing and not trying to force anything. Just reading the defense, that's what I've been doing."