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Jeffri Chadiha
December 11, 2006
Hot Hand
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December 11, 2006

The Nfl

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Hot Hand

Showing a poise that belies his youth, Vince Young led the Titans to an upset of the Colts for his fifth win in nine starts

TENNESSEE TITANS quarterback Vince Young had a hunch as he stood on the sideline in the waning seconds of his team's 20--17 upset win over Indianapolis on Sunday. With the score tied and the ball on the Colts' 42-yard line, Titans coach Jeff Fisher had sent out his punt team on fourth down, content to settle for overtime. But Young noticed something: enough of an afternoon breeze to think that Tennessee placekicker Rob Bironas could win the game with a 60-yard field goal try. "I thought, Oh, Coach, just give him a chance. I mean, we have the wind blowing and all," Young said later.

When Fisher changed his mind during a timeout and let Bironas win the game, it not only gave the Titans a shocking victory but also said much about Young's instincts. The rookie has displayed an uncanny knack for making the right call as he has developed from intriguing project to clutch performer. After leading Tennessee to its first back-to-back victories of the season, Young now has won five of his nine starts.

None of this was supposed to happen so quickly. When Tennessee signed Kerry Collins and made him the starter, the plan was to bring Young along slowly, a notion that now seems quaint. "The guy is amazing," says Titans wide receiver Drew Bennett. "To make the plays that he makes and win the games that he is winning, with just a few games under his belt, I think it says that some big things are down the road."

Sometimes Young makes big plays with his arm, but more often he does it with his legs. In the last two games alone, he has rushed for 147 yards while also completing 39 of 60 passes for 412 yards and four touchdowns, with only two interceptions.

Indianapolis struggled to contain his scrambles. "We are usually good at running the quarterback down, but [not] today," said Colts coach Tony Dungy. Young says he's becoming more effective with his feet because he's recognizing defenses faster. "The game is slowing down a whole lot," says Young, who ran for 78 yards against Indianapolis. "[The Colts] were dropping back real deep in coverage, so they gave me the opportunity to use my legs."

Fisher believes that Young will become a more polished pocket passer in time as he works on his footwork. Titans coaches have always liked his natural feel for eluding the pass rush; Young credits that skill to his college coaches at Texas, who stressed that he know where blitzes were coming from so he could make plays in the Longhorns' read-option, spread-formation offense.

If Young is clearly ahead of where his coaches thought he would be, the same can now be said of the Titans, a team that has won five of its last seven games after an 0--5 start. They now travel to Houston for an intriguing matchup. There was much predraft talk about the Texans' selecting Young first overall because he's both a Houston native and a Texas product. They instead chose defensive end Mario Williams.

That's fine with Young, who's happy to be in Tennessee after weathering a tough start. "When you have teams saying you're the worst team in the league or have commentators saying this or that, you get tired of it, especially when you know you're good," he says. "We're just a young team. Once we get our chemistry down, everything's going to work out."

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