Bold Predictions™: Week Three
It was a gambit worthy of Butch Davis. Jeff Fischer, anxious to light a fire under his Titans ball club and terrified of starting the season 1-2, played classic rope a dope with the injured list. The feet of Eddie George and Jevon Kearse? Steve McNair's noggin and back? Robaire Smith's knee and Robert Holcombe's hip? All blatant fabrications. So when Butch sees a full-strength Titans squad take the field, all he can do is grin. He has the Titans right where he wants them.
National sportswriters seem to think Tennessee will have no problem handling a young Browns squad, but Butch knows better. George—bad foot or not—is averaging a James Jacksonian 2.9 yards per carry. Steve McNair, while efficient, has chucked two INTs in two games, including one to a woeful Dallas defense. Against Cleveland, it takes McNair exactly one play to notch his first pick. First and 10 at their his 20 yard line, McNair drops back and fires a pass down field to Derrick Mason running a fly route on the right side. The pass is right on the money, but so is Corey Fuller. The veteran CB snares the ball at the Browns 45, where he is brought down by Mason.
Of course, the ding on this Browns club is the running game. But when alleged third down back Jamel White pops a 12-yard off-tackle run on the first play from scrimmage, even shiftless hacks like Len Pasquerelli can't help but take note. Butch likes what he sees, and runs Jamel off right tackle six times in a row. Just like that, White reels off 55 yards on the ground, scoring on an eight-yard burst that leaves Jevon Kearse grasping at air and defensive tackle Robaire Smith on the ground with a strained elbow.
Fischer isn't done yet. He's anxious to prove his Titans' ballclub can air it out and strike quick and deep. But the first play after the ensuing kickoff, McNair's quick slant to Kevin Dyson goes awry when Dyson pulls up lame. Dwayne Rudd steps in front of the receiver and rumbles 30 yards for a quick score. Just like that, McNair has doubled his INT count, and the Titans' scare ‘em game plan is in shambles.
Fischer is looking oh so NASCAR in his blade glasses and subtle mullet cut, but he's just a crying on the inside kind of clown. Three minutes into the first quarter, Fischer knows this game is over. Naturally, the coach turns to Eddie George, who's powerful, grind it out style can wear down defenses and frustrate opposing coaches. Instead, George gets stuffed, losing six yards on three straight carries and suffering a series of withering blows that leave George gasping for air.
It doesn't get much better on defense for the Flaming Thumbtacks. Butch Davis, sticking it to the national press, runs William Green on 18 straight plays. The young running back out of Boston College sheds all doubts as he flays the Titan defense for 178 yards and three TDs during the incredible streak. By halftime, the Browns have a 150 point lead, and Tim Couch still has not thrown a pass.
That changes in the second half. Couch airs it out on a suspect Titans defense that managed to make Quincy Carter look good in week 2. Kevin Johnson, Andre Davis, Quincy Morgan, Dennis Northcutt, even Frisman Jackson all get in on the fun. By the time it's over, Couch has passed for 500 yards and 12 TDs, finally leaving the game when his arm becomes to weak to throw any longer. Kelly Holcomb steps in to pad his stats in the fourth quarter.
Titans owner Bud Adams Jr. can't stand to watch another minute. Rather than see the game play itself out, Adams calls the league office. He's moving the thumbtacks to LA, and will rename the club the California Colossus. The stadium deal is still pending, so Adams puts the Eyeballs on a touring schedule. The team plays in San Bernadino, La Jolla, Escondido, Tijuana, and Mexicali. Incredibly, the new uniforms are even uglier than the old ones, featuring a huge, flaming eyeball on the helmet and a multi-tone jersey that simply screams CFL.
None of this matters to the Browns, of course. They win the game going away. Final score?
And that's the way I see it. GMD