Reconnecting to full emotions of fandom by suffering through US Soccer's failure

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- I root, far too hard, for seven-year-old soccer and baseball players.

My son and his best buds are an extraordinary bunch, just like your bunch, and I take great joy in watching them work together, learn, compete and succeed.

At 48, my life as a die-hard fan, jaded by over two decades as a sportswriter, has been boiled down to the bare minimum: U.S Soccer and the New York Yankees I grew up rooting for in Central New Jersey.WorldCuplogo

The two have collided in recent days, with crucial stakes for both. Yankees manager Joe Girardi ridiculously didn’t challenge a monumental call Friday night and his blunder led to a loss. They’ve recovered for two wins and could still advance to the ALCS Wednesday night in Cleveland.

The U.S. games Friday night and Tuesday night were even bigger, with World Cup qualification on the line. They won the first in magnificent fashion, a super 4-0 home win over Panama.

But the second one was one of the biggest disasters of my life as a sporting fan. I always try to be aware of recency bias and am generally hesitant to call what just happened the best or the worst.

But this was the worst.

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Titans will stay the course more than they will change

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There is a middle ground between “change everything” and “stay the course” and the Titans need to find it to get on track.ThirdDown

I need you to get yourself to a place where you can accept that they will lean a lot more toward stay the course.

The best moments for this team this season were the second halves of the wins at Jacksonville and over Seattle.

And the key to those second halves was sticking with it. I think that safely symbolizes the sort of mindset the Titans coaches will have Tuesday as they game plan and the players will have as that plan is installed.

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Monday reaction to reactionary tweets

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It felt like a lot of what you've been saying demanded I deal with some mail.

PK: Here is the thing: It's not Player X versus some imagined alternative or minimal standard. It's Player X versus Player Y. I've set Colin Kaepernick aside for obvious reasons, that's not a strictly skill set evlauation whether you think it should be or not. So tell me WHO the guy is they should have brought in instead? I'm up for the conversation, but the rule here now is, if you say a guy shouldn't be around, you have to give a name for who should be around instead. That goes for Kevin Dodd, not just Matt Cassel.sword

PK: Holding a bad offense to 10 points is suficiently good work, particularly a week after giving up 57 to a burgeoning offense.

PK: Running isn't the only way to further aggravate it. Lateral movement could do it, a hit could do it, and it's hard for a guy who runs to simply not run when people are chasing him. You're broader point, though, is true. He could have beaten them by doing very little.

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Hate blaming officials, but Titans got shafted on two calls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A three-play swing on two penalties was crucial in the Titans loss at Miami Sunday.

I’m disinclined to blame the refs, but the Titans looked to get the wrong end of both calls.GetThem

On a first-and-10 from the Titans 41 yard-line with 53 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Jonnu Smith engaged with Xavier Howard at five yards and stayed on him for five more. Then, 10 yards from the line of scrimmage on the left side, he turned just as Matt Cassel release the ball for Delanie Walker, who caught it about 23 yards further downfield and ran in for a 59-yard score.

But Smith was called for offensive pass interference.

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Plan B offense earned an F for Titans in Miami

mdi construction barMIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Plan B has to work in that game.IMG 2653

With a defensive rebound that yielded only 10 points, 178 net yards -- just 78 of them passing -- and 12 first downs, that side of the ball did enough. But the Titans found a way to lose anyway, depressingly dropping to 2-3 with a 16-10 loss to the Dolphins  

This one was the fault of offense.

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Minus Marcus Mariota, Titans produce another dud

mdi construction barMIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- If Marcus Mariota isn't back for the Titans' Oct. 16 Monday Night Football game against the Colts in Nashville, there will be legitimate cause for worry.

Entering a crucial three-game stretch against beatable opponents, the Titans dropped the first, falling to 2-3 while MarIota watched from the sideline with a hamstring strain.

In a punting contest between Brett Kern and Matt Haack, the Dolphins broke through, 16-10.

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As Titans play it safe with Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassel needs to play it safe

mdi construction barMIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Titans are taking the safe approach with Marcus Mariota, with ESPN and NFL Network reporting he's out with his strained hamstring. Now Matt Cassel needs to follow suit and be safe too.CDB6703A B50F 47AD A0FA B791343F063B

The receipe for Tennessee to get its third win is pretty simple: Play significantly better defense, hand the ball to DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, get some supplementary passing game help from Cassel and have him play a clean game while finding a boost from special teams.

Cassel's No  1 mission is to not make killer mistakes. Hs arm looked terrible in relief last week, so look for catch and runs as opposed to run and catches. The passing-game yardage is more likely to come after the catch.

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Mailbag: Is Marcus Mariota's injury from 2016 a factor now?

NASHVILE, Tenn. -- As I get ready to heard for South Florida, it's time to share the mail. Combat

PK: I don’t think the repaired leg is an issue. But he did spend the majority of his offseason healing and rehabbing, and when you are doing that you’re not able to spend as much time working on your weaknesses. In that respect, I think it’s a factor. He also didn’t get a great deal of time with several new targets: Eric Decker, Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Jonnu Smith.

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