NASHVILLE -- Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans put on quite a show on the field Sunday against nemesis Indianapolis Colts.
(T-G Photo by Danny Parker)
Young and teammates played a heck of a game, good enough to win against most teams, and made some outstanding plays in the game at key moments -- the benchmark for a team playing a championship caliber opponent.
Make no mistake, this was a big game for the Titans. They held the Colts to 31 points last season, losing 14-13 on the road before snapping a seven-game skid to Indianapolis last December on Rob Bironas' 60-yard field goal in Nashville.
It was a coming out party for Young as he became the first quarterback in NFL history to lead two comebacks of 14 points or more as a rookie.
The Titans were coming off of a surprising win in Jacksonville last week and they felt that this game would be a good measuring stick of where they are as a team after improving themselves through free agency and the draft during the off season. A win would have given them the AFC South lead.
After a rather lethargic start they fell behind early, but the momentum started to swing in Tennessee's favor late in the third quarter when cornerback Cortland Finnegan posted his first career interception, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by LenDale White -- also a career first -- that pulled the Titans to within six with 4:58 to play in the quarter.
The Colts answered with a 20-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri, but then he missed a 36-yard attempt with 12:30 to play in the game.
Young then hit Roydell Williams for a touchdown, cutting the Indianapolis advantage to 22-20 and setting the stage for an eerily similar scenario as last year.
However, there would be no miracle comeback this time as Brandon Jones bobbled a catchable third down pass and Young got caught in a fourth-down blitz. The quarterback managed an ill-advised lateral to guard Jacob Bell, but Bell fumbled and the Colts recovered with just four seconds to play.
At that point Young removed his equipment and slammed it to the ground as he entered the players' tunnel in full view of the fans. He didn't bother to stick around and shake hands after the horn sounded or join the prayer circle with members of both teams at midfield.
He was the first player to be interviewed and it was very evident from the moment that he entered the room that it was the last place on earth he wanted to be. The session very quickly degenerated when he chastised a writer for asking, "Did the Colts do anything that you had not practiced for?" Or, "How about the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on you in the second quarter that killed a drive?"
He continued to vent for several moments before another writer made the observation that he appeared to be frustrated and asked if he would like to elaborate.
(T-G Photo by Danny Parker)
He then proceeded to abruptly call the whole thing off and leave the room as the Titans media relations representative was giving the precursory "are there any more questions" inquiry. There were, of course, many more to be asked but an empty podium is not the best respondent.
Vince Young is a supremely gifted athlete and has a long career ahead of him. I am personally a big fan of his and I guess that is why I have some concerns with what I see to be a developing pattern of undesirable actions that gives one pause.
Setting himself apart from his teammates by leaving the team hotel and sleeping elsewhere, making overt suggestions to the media afterwards that he was singled out by coach Jeff Fisher when he was relegated to the sidelines for his transgression, getting personal fouls called on him during games and leaving the field prematurely in a fit of anger is disrespectful of the game and to the team concept.
Certainly these types of behaviors are not conducive to responsible leadership and in fact could lead to divisive factions in the locker room.
Some say it is poor sportsmanship. Some say let the athletes have a little fun and show some emotion. Any way you want to look at it, rude and condescending behavior is not an attribute you want to be the face of your franchise.
No matter whether you believe these post-play actions are examples of a deterioration of sportsmanship or not, it is not what I want for my team or for my peers.
Jimmy Jones is a Times-Gazette sports writer.