What We Learned
Three things we learned after the Titans-Eagles game
Updated: Monday December 04, 2000 9:02 AM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
PHILADELPHIA -- Stopping their mini-skid, the Tennessee Titans used five Al Del Greco field goals to post a dramatic 15-13 victory at Philadelphia on Sunday, locking up the Titans' second consecutive double-digit victory season. Tennessee (10-3) also protected its slim AFC Central lead in the process.
1. It has been a rough last month for guys from Tennessee named Al, so raise a glass in Al Del Greco's direction.
Being an NFL kicker is a lonely business when you're slumping, and nobody has been afforded more solitude of late than Del Greco, who failed to deliver on game-winning field goal attempts for the Titans twice in a recent three-week span. His last-minute misses at Baltimore (he also botched an extra point) and Jacksonville put Tennessee's AFC Central lead in jeopardy, and in the case of the former, snapped the Titans' two-year home winning streak.
Del Greco had himself quite a comeback game Sunday at Veterans Stadium, taking to Philadelphia almost as well as he has to Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville. Del Greco provided all 15 of the Titans' points on the first five field-goal game of his 17-year NFL career. He was a perfect 5-of-5, converting from 26, 42, 22, 44 and 50 yards in chilling conditions (30-degree temperatures at kickoff, with a wind chill of 22 degrees).
Del Greco's game-winning 50-yard at the gun was the longest such deciding kick in his career, and marked his 14th career game-winner and third this season. Known as "Automatic Al", before Sunday, Del Greco had been about as reliable as a Florida recount in recent weeks.
"It beats the hell out of last week," said Del Greco, who improved to 25-of-33 in field goals this season. "It's been a rough two weeks, a lot of looking at myself, making sure I could still do this. Which I said all long I could."
Del Greco's day proved devastating to the Eagles, but there was nothing but respect for him in the Philadelphia locker room. The same can be said for Del Greco around the league.
"You just pray, pray and hope he misses it," Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said when asked what he was thinking when Del Greco lined up for his game-winner. "But he made a great kick under pressure. I thought he was going to miss."
2. The Eagles' roster includes the most talented Trotter since Curley Neal.
His name isn't everywhere just yet, but Philadelphia middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter was all over the field Sunday and deserves strong Pro Bowl consideration. Playing side-to-side football, Trotter led the Eagles with 12 tackles and one pass defended.
His knockdown of a third-and-goal pass intended for Titans running back Eddie George saved a touchdown, and he at least twice dumped George for losses in the backfield. His tackle of George for a one-yard loss on third-and-6 from the Eagles' 39 early in the fourth quarter kept a 9-6 Titans lead intact and gave Philadelphia the chance to mount a comeback.
Rookie defensive tackle Corey Simon and right defensive end Hugh Douglas are the Eagles sacks leaders and have generated much of the publicity this season for Philadelphia's strong defensive showing. But teams preparing for the Eagles are beginning to account for Trotter early on in their offensive game-planning.
Trotter, in his third NFL season, was no unknown last year, racking up 202 tackles. But the 1998 third-round pick out of Stephen F. Austin has been even better in 2000, registering a team-best 126 tackles (seven for a loss), with 14 quarterback hurries, two sacks, one interception for a touchdown and five pass breakups before Sunday. Against Tennessee, he recorded his 10th double-digit tackle game of the season.
3. Their vagabond ways of a few years ago may seem like a thing of the past, but the Tennessee Titans remain the kings of the road in the NFL.
Tennessee has an NFL-best 27-21 record on the road since 1995, and the Titans are 5-2 away from home in 2000 with their victory at frosty Philadelphia. Combined with last year's 5-3 road record, the Tennessee has won 10 of its past 15 road games, and that doesn't even include playoff wins last January at Indianapolis and Jacksonville.
Why are the Titans so effective in reducing hostile crowds to mere backdrops? Because they have a pounding, clock-hogging running game built around running back Eddie George that allows them to dictate the pace and flow of a game.
With George again leading the way, the Titans on Sunday controlled the time of possession statistic, leading by an almost 2-to-1 margin (38:42 to 21:18). George slashed his way to 101 yards on 32 back-breaking carries, lifting Tennessee's record to 5-0 this year and 23-5 lifetime when George runs for 100 yards or more.
Quarterback Steve McNair's unflappable presence in the huddle also helps explain the Titans' road success, but it is George and the weapon he affords that allows Tennessee to continue to dominate away from home.