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Saturday, August 18, 2007
Fisher blames rain, Patriots for Young's inaugural struggles

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vince Young looked downright rusty. The 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year slipped to the ground, threw passes short and high and lost the ball on a bungled handoff.

Being benched for the Tennessee Titans' exhibition opener must be a little to blame, right?

Not according to coach Jeff Fisher. He credits lots of rain and a blitz-heavy defensive plan by the New England Patriots for how Young and the first-team offense struggled in a 27-24 victory Friday night.

"I think it was the weather, the surface, people in his face. The approach the Patriots took defensively, which was a unique approach," Fisher said Saturday.

"They brought people almost every down from different places. They dropped different people out in coverage. We went in this game with a very basic game plan and did not put ourselves in position to try to take advantage of those things."

So that's why Young struggled so much in his first game action after being benched in the exhibition opener for going home to sleep in his own bed instead of the team hotel.

The Patriots sacked Young four times, and the quarterback went six straight passes without a completion. He finished 5-of-17 for 102 yards and the quarterback who set a rookie record with 552 yards rushing was stopped twice when he tried to run in from the Patriots 1.

Fisher defended his quarterback and said he has played well in training camp. The coach pointed out his defense hit Tom Brady repeatedly and forced two interceptions with two of three sacks using only a basic four-man rush.

"That didn't bother me a bit. People have different approaches. We set out to accomplish different things as coaches on different staffs. We can't take it personally just because our approach would seem to be different from someone else's," Fisher said.

The brightest spot for the Titans (1-1) aside from pulling out the victory with 20 points in the second half was the defense, a unit maligned for most of 2006 and this offseason after ranking dead last in the NFL.

They came up with three sacks and beat up Brady and his backups in coming up with four interceptions. With eight sacks through two exhibitions, that's one more than Tennessee managed all of last preseason.

Cortland Finnegan, trying to find a spot in a suddenly crowded secondary, picked off Brady and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown. Rookie Michael Griffin, still playing at cornerback, came up with two interceptions and broke up a couple other passes.

The defense also held New England to a field goal and a miss wide left in the first half despite being backed up on first-and-goal twice at the Tennessee 10.

That helped counter Tennessee's 10 penalties for 80 yards in the first half alone. Luckily, the backups added only one for 5 yards in the second half.

"I think there were a lot of mistakes our team made that put us behind the eight ball," center Kevin Mawae said. "It exposed a lot of things we need to work on."

LenDale White, who was supposed to start at running back, was held out because of swelling in a sprained ankle. That let Chris Henry start, and he ran for 7 yards on his first carry before finishing with 15 on eight rushes.

He picked up one blitz but completely missed Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who easily sacked Young. The quarterback couldn't find anything positive after the game.

"As for myself, different things out there I think I could've done better. Overall, the game is going to come to me. It's going to get better and better, just like last year. I'm all right," Young said.

Fisher agreed. He pointed out the lone highlight of the first-team offense. Surrounded by defenders, Young saw Bo Scaife, flicked him the ball before being hit and the tight end broke loose for 44 yards.

"Much like finding Bo last year, he did some good things," Fisher said.

It's a start.