November 29, 2009
Last time Matt Leinart(notes) and Vince Young(notes) met up in a game, it was Young's Texas Longhorns and Leinart's USC Trojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl. Young put up perhaps the best bowl game performance ever in one of the most memorable postseason games in football history at any level. The Longhorns were down, 38-26 late in the game before Young hooked his 'Horns on two scoring drives to take the game and the national championship.
It's been a bumpy road for Young since then. After his great rookie season, concerns about Young's behavior on and off their field led the Tennessee Titans to go with Kerry Collins(notes) as their quarterback in 2008. Tennessee's 13-3 record seemed to validate that decision, and many supposed that Young was simply another spread-option bust who couldn't find consistent success in the pros. But with nothing to lose after an 0-6 draft this season, coach Jeff Fisher re-inserted Young as the starter at the behest of bird-flipping owner Bud Adams, and the Titans hadn't lost a game since. Of course, that wasn't all on Young -- running back Chris Johnson is on pace to obliterate most single-season rushing records, and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger put together an offensive game plan that played to young's strengths (option football) and strayed from his weaknesses (consistent pocket passing). Young turned that around to a point last Monday night against the Houston Texans, making some solid throws in a more traditional setup, but what we saw when Young and his Titans lined up against Leinart and the Cards was otherworldly.
Tennessee was down, 17-13, with the ball at their own one-yard line with 2:37 left in the game, thanks to a punt downed by Arizona special teams star LaRod Stephens-Howling(notes). On the subsequent 18-play drive, Young converted three fourth-down opportunities and completed 9 of 16 passes for 76 yards and the touchdown to rookie Kenny Britt(notes) to take the game. The pass to Britt was especially encouraging, as Young stood and waited, went through his reads, stepped up, and fired the pro throw for the game-winner. It was a virtuoso performance by a guy who most people thought was done at the NFL level, and it puts the 5-6 Titans as the one sub-.500 team nobody wants to face right now. Young's 387-yard show makes him perhaps the most interesting redemption story of the 2009 season.
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