Titans' Strategy Backfires

The Tennessee Titans chose to let Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter sit back in the pocket and find receivers, almost like the "Dare McNair" schemes employed against the Titans in the past. Needless to say, it didn't work and Carter led the Cowboys to a 21-13 win over Tennessee.

The Tennessee Titans dared Quincy Carter to beat them. And with a little help from the Dallas Cowboys defense, he did.

Carter, a week after being harassed into numerous mistakes against the expansion Houston Texans, threw two touchdown passes and got a third from his defense as the Cowboys stunned the Tennessee Titans 21-13 Sunday at Texas Stadium.

Carter completed 14 of 24 passes for 240 yards, including a back-breaking 38-yard touchdown throw to Joey Galloway with 11:52 to play that put the Cowboys in the win column and sent the Titans back to Nashville searching for answers.

"As far the game is concerned, this game came down to them making plays and us not," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We had respect for their quarterback, despite the difficulties he had last week. We actually told our defense what they were going to be doing and we didn't make the play."

Galloway's leaping grab between Titans defensive backs Samari Rolle and Lance Schulters put the Cowboys ahead 21-10, a hole the Titans could never dig themselves out of after building a 10-7 halftime edge.

"We talked about not giving them any big plays. We were in position. We just didn't make the plays," Schulters said. "The ball just hung and hung and we didn't make the play. We were right there. It seemed to me like it was going to go out of bounds, and I just couldn't find it. My position on the ball was bad. Give Joey the play. He made a good play on that."

Rolle, too, knew the Titans should have at the very least come away with an incompletion, going two-on-one against the Cowboys speedster on the post route.

"We knew what they were going do. Lance and I were back there. He basically threw up a Hail Mary and Galloway made the play," Rolle said. "I don't think he should have thrown it personally, but he caught it, and life goes on.

There were two of us back there, and he was the one who came down with it. It was their day today."

Indeed it was. The first signs that it might be the Cowboys' day came in the third quarter when Dallas linebacker Dexter Coakley gave his team the lead by grabbing an errant Steve McNair pass and returning 52 yards to give the home team its first lead of the day, 14-10.

"Anytime you play a defense like we played today, and you give them points, a touchdown, it's going to be difficult," Fisher said.

"That's when the game shifted," said running back Eddie George, who had 50 of his 65 yards in the first half. "We gave them that big play and they scored off that. The fans get something to cheer about; their offense gets going, and they had confidence going on defense."

"Dexter's play was a huge play," Cowboys coach Dave Campo said. "This game is about playmakers. I thought we had good pressure on McNair all day. A couple of times, it didn't work, but that time it did, and Dexter has a way of making big plays."

Actually, Coakley did only half the work on that big play. The whole reason the pass misfired in the first place was because of the rush of Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who got past tight end Frank Wycheck and raked McNair's arm just as he let the ball go.

"I got beat on the corner with Woodson," Wycheck said. "He got around me and hit Steve's arm." "As I was going to throw the football and follow through, he just hit my hand," McNair said. "I was just waiting for him to come and was anticipating his rush. He was supposed to be protected. I didn't even know he was there."

The game began well enough for the Titans, who grabbed an early 7-0 lead when McNair and Wycheck hooked up a 1-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first quarter.

The Cowboys calmly marched back downfield in the second period and tied the game when Carter hit Tony McGee for a 17-yard TD that tied the game just three minutes later.

"He's a pro quarterback, and he made plays," Fisher said. "We asked our corners to cover one-on-one today because we had to stop the run, feeling that was going to be their emphasis. I thought we did a pretty good job stopping the run and we needed to make plays outside. When he has time and he sets up and they max protect, he can make some accurate throws."

Tennessee regained the lead on the next possession, as Joe Nedney nailed a 37-yard field goal. However, it was a costly possession for the Titans as McNair sustained a concussion when Coakley shoved him on the way out of bounds after an 8-yard scramble. McNair's momentum carried him into the Dallas bench, where he rammed his head on an equipment box and his shoulder on the back of the bench. He left the game for the remainder of the half with a mild concussion and jammed neck, but returned in the second half.

"At first, it just stunned me. I got a little weak when it hit it," McNair said. "My neck got sore right before I went back out there, but it loosened up. It didn't hinder me. It didn't bother me, we just didn't make the plays when we had to."

There was plenty of that going around for the Titans, who managed only Nedney's 52-yard field goal in the second half.

Tennessee did have one final desperation shot after forcing a Dallas punt with 1:59 to play. The Titans took over at midfield and a McNair to Kevin Dyson 18-yard gain put the ball first-and-10 at the Cowboys 32. The drive fizzled from there, thanks to penalties and incompletion. Tennessee's best chance to score on the drive came when Dyson faked out Cowboy safety Lynn Scott near the 10 and was all alone in the end zone. However, McNair's pass had too much loft and was batted down by Mario Edwards at the last second.

"I couldn't get enough on it," McNair said. "There was a guy around my legs. When you can't use your legs to throw the football, and you're using all arms, you have no idea where the ball is going to go. I was just trying to give him a chance to make a play, but we never should have been in that situation."

McNair was under plenty of pressure, thanks to breakdowns along the offensive front, and was sacked three times, in addition to Woodson's pressure that caused the Coakley interception and the last gasp throw to Dyson.

The Titans' offensive breakdowns, plus Carter's limited but effective offensive choices, added up to an upset victory for the Cowboys and lots of questions to be settled for the Titans.

"We just gave them confidence," defensive tackle John Thornton said. "We came out here and we jumped on them early, and we let them get confidence. They pretty much were down. But we gave them confidence, and that's bad."

"That's what's disappointing about it," Schulters added. "You let a team get its neck up and start feeling good about itself and they get more confidence. And that's what happened. As the game went on, they got more confidence, and believing in themselves and started making more plays.

"We have to do better, period, but especially against the pass. When you've got a team down, you've got to keep them down. We didn't get done today, but I'm not jumping ship. We know what we have here, and we'll be back next week to prove it."

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