First games are supposed to answer the lingering questions from the NFL preseason. But there are still a lot of things we don’t know about the 2002 Tennessee Titans, even after their dramatic 27-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
We don’t know about their defense, for one thing. The unit that was the biggest uncertainty when training camp opened is still the biggest uncertainty. In the second half, led by rookie Carlos Hall, they showed flashes of their old QB-pressuring brilliance, sacking the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb six times and forcing an interception with a hit.
But they also showed long stretches of last year’s ignominy. More often than not, especially in the first half, McNabb hit open receivers. And although the Eagles did not accumulate many rushing yards, the Titans had little success stopping them on the ground when they needed to during the first three periods.
The Titans’ own running game remains a question mark. Though Eddie George broke off several impressive runs early, the team accumulated only a paltry 61 yards on the ground (24 contributed by Steve McNair).
We’re not sure about their special teams, eitheror, more disconcerting to Titans fans, maybe we are. As in the past two seasons, the Titans on Sunday experienced a couple of nearly catastrophic special teams meltdowns. Both of thema flubbed punt by rookie favorite John Simon and a failed attempt to field an onside kickled to Eagles’ scores.
One question was resoundingly answered. Beginning with the Titans’ first drive, Eddie George served notice that he had returned to excellent form. He slashed like the old Eddie, he cut back against the grain like the old E.G. and, on the winning score and two-point conversion, he sprinted to the corners like his old bad self.
Another question was thuddingly answered. As before, watching the Titans can be both agonizingly suspenseful and just plain agonizing. Against the Eagles, they repeated a familiar pattern. They sliced through the Eagles’ defense for a TD and held them on two straight possessions; then, after Simon’s fumble, the Titans went into a funk and fell behind 24-10. On one possession, three different offensive linemen drew false start penalties. Three different players lost fumbles, and through three quarters the Titans looked as if they would drop their third-straight season opener.
Then they answered a bigger question. As during their Super Bowl season, the Titans showed their old, presumed-lost ability to pull out victories in the end, particularly at home. The Titans of 2001 would have lost that game after falling behind by 14. Instead, after what must have been a memorable manhood challenge at halftime, Jeff Fisher’s team roared back for 17 points. By the time it was over, the Titans had restored some of the old aura of invincibility around Your Name Here Coliseum.
Amid the continuing questions, the team provided what, from Fisher’s point of view, must be the most valuable certainty. They’re 1-0. In this league, where you are matters more than how you got there.
Women on the verge
The wife of a friend belongs to a no-boys-allowed investment club modeled after the well-known “Beardstown Ladies.” The friend wishes to remain nameless. (We’ll call him Wilson.)
Some of the women know that Wilson refers to their group as the “Hens and Nesteggs Club,” but they do not know why. It’s not that Wilson resents the club’s exclusiveness or that he wants them to admit men, least of all him, into their membership. Wilson says he would sooner endure an all-night egg-eating contest with Albert Haynesworth than sit through three hours of talking about stock strategies.
Wilson regards his politically incorrect crack as an investment that helps ensure the women won’t change their minds and start inviting the men to their events. In his view, it’s a win/win situation.
I couldn’t help thinking about Wilson’s strategy amid all the hoo-roar last week over the staunch refusal of the Augusta National Country Club, home of the Masters golf tournament, to allow female members.
The head poobah of Augusta National, Hootie Johnson, whose name is practically a neon sign that proclaims “Good Ole Boy,” received a call the other day from the head poobah of a council of women’s organizations. Wouldn’t it be better, Ms. Poobah suggested, if the club went ahead and admitted women so it could avoid any embarrassing negative publicity, which her group would encourage, during the Masters next year?
Well, no, replied Hootie (or printable words to that effect). In fact, Hootie and the boys went ahead and burned down part of the plantation to keep it from falling into the carpetbag-carrying hands of the would-be abolitionists of all-male bastions. The country club announced that next year’s Masters will be commercial-free, so that its leading advertisers would not be subjected to pressure or boycotts by gender integrationist groups.
It has been a tough past few years for ol’ Hootie. The man has seen some changes. First, popular pressure emboldened the Boys to take the radical step of admitting a token member of color. They should have known they were treading on a slippery slope. Now the barbarianettes are at the gate.
According to initial opinion polls, a majority of those who were interested enough to vote agreed with Hootie. It’s a private club; if they want to limit the membership to people who look and think like them, most respondents said, that should be their business.
Personally, I’m all for shaming these guys. Maybe CBS and the PGA will pressure them into adopting a slightly more progressive attitude toward non-wealthy non-white non-males. I’d rather play every putt-putt course in Myrtle Beach than spend time in a clubhouse with Hootie and the boys. At least Myrtle Beach isn’t trying to fool anybody.
Nevertheless, what’s at stake here is not some great principle of civil rights but merely the privilege to play golf at a honky chateau. Sisters, if y’all are fighting for the right to be in a club like Augusta (much less to wear one of those ChemLawn-green jackets), allow me to suggest that there are some other gender-inequity causes more worthy of your attention.
I won’t say the women are wrongjust that the person who got it most right was Groucho Marx. Unless I happened to be a cigar-chomping, vodka-slugging, estate-tax-hating old boy of privilege who’s most comfortable seeing black men and women of all colors in servile roles, I wouldn’t want to belong to this particular club were it to have me as a member.
How it looks from the La-Z-Boy
Titans 27, Cowboys 19
At home in Dallas, expect the Cowboyshumiliated by a loss to the expansion Houston Texans (and the loss of in-state bragging rights)to play with determination. Unless the Titans turn it over even more than last week, though, and until Dallas QB Quincy Carter gets a better understanding of his position, the Cowboys won’t stop their former cross-state rival from going 2-0.
Steelers 20, Raiders 17
Dolphins 27, Colts 23
49ers 24, Broncos 20
Patriots 24, Jets 21
Eagles 27, Redskins 23
Auburn 30, Vanderbilt 10
Georgia 23, South Carolina 17
Kentucky 34, Indiana 10
Texas Tech 24, Ole Miss 21
Michigan 20, Notre Dame 17
Ohio State 31, Washington State 27
New Frontiers in Ignorance Award Winners of the Week (Tie): Phil Fulmer and Dwayne Rudd. Coach Phil, who perhaps was blissfully unaware of the academic shortcomings of his own UT charges, suggested last week that MTSU’s football program had benefited from casually allowing too many non-scholars into school. Not to be outdone, Rudd cost the Cleveland Browns an opening-day victory when, in a premature celebration, he tossed his helmet before the final play ended. The resulting penalty allowed Kansas City to kick the winning field goal with 0:00 on the clock.