IRVING, Texas – Having spent the day reviewing the win against the Titans, here are my three biggest takeaways from the tape. Some of this is obvious to anyone watching the broadcast, some is a little more subtle.
- It was clear from the first snap of the game that DeMarco Murray came ready to play and his stamina and durability became stronger as the game wore on. He showed outstanding balance and body control. He ran with lower body power and was physical breaking tackles with his punishing running style. He refused to just be brought down by one defender. He was able to keep his pads down and was able to finish his runs.
For a back that is not known for his elusiveness, there were several snaps where he was able to make a man miss. Whether he was running the ball inside or out, he showed good instincts when to power the ball straight ahead or make a slight cut in order to secure a few more yards. His vision to read the block then get through the hole was exactly where it needed to be. There was not a hint of hesitation or indecision when the ball was in his hands.
When he had to pass protect he was assignment-sure. His willingness to block has always been one of his strengths and he takes it as a personal challenge to be strong in this area. He had four catches on the day, but he should have had a fifth on a third down play working inside late in the game that would have kept a drive going. The fumble he had in the first quarter it was the only other negative play that he had. It was a complete day for a complete back.
- It was good to see Brandon Carr have the type of day coverage-wise that I felt like he was capable of. You have heard me say this before, that Carr is at his best if he can lock up on a receiver and just play man coverage.
Against the Titans, Rod Marinelli helped him and allowed him to do just that – get up tight and go to work. These Titans receivers had a difficult time getting away from him because he was able to stab with his hand, flip his hips and carry the man up the field. There were several snaps where he didn't give Nate Washington an inch. His technique put him in position to defend the ball whether it was up the sideline or down on the goal line, he was right there.
This was a big change from playing in off coverage and chasing receivers all over the field, which is a situation that he struggles with the most. Fair or unfair, there were times where I questioned Carr's physical and mental toughness. I had seen too many games where I thought he played soft and uninspired, but on Sunday that wasn't the case at all. His mental toughness and temperament were outstanding and he played a major role in holding this Titans offense to 20 percent conversions on third down.
- When you play special teams in the NFL it really is a mindset. As a player you are either tough enough to handle it or they find someone that can. When Joseph Randle was drafted, I had not seen this desire to excel on special teams. I understood that he wanted to get more opportunities as a running back, and he even made a couple of injury starts, but in his second season in the league, there has been a change.
Gone is that player who I wasn't confident was picking things up quickly, and who I didn't think the coaches trusted. After watching Joseph Randle play on special teams these last two weeks, I now understand why this front office and coaching staff kept him on this 53-man roster.
It is not often that Dan Bailey doesn't put the ball out of the back of the end zone for the touchback, but when he doesn't, Randle is usually right there trying to make a tackle. As soon as the ball is kicked, he is one of the first defenders down the field and he is a tone setter with the way that he attacks the ball. His mindset is to do whatever it takes to get to the ball and it is this reckless attitude that makes him one of those key core guys on special teams like Dwayne Harris, Jeff Heath and C.J. Spillman. His desire and toughness does not go unnoticed.