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Titans' Young has made the most of his second chance

There is so much talk around the league now as to who might be the MVP, but it is still too early for me to make that decision. We are just about to enter the most crucial time of the season.

Yes, Peyton Manning has been spectacular all season, refusing to allow his team to lose, as has Drew Brees. And certainly Brett Favre and his rebirth in Minnesota will draw some serious consideration. With five games to go, though, this race is too close to call.

Turnaround in Tennessee

John Russell / Associated Press
Vince Young has led Tennessee on a five-game winning streak. Compare the Titans' offensive stats during the five games he has started, with the six games he did not (stats are on a per game average):
 
Record
Total yards
Pass yards
Rush yards
With Young
5-0
399.8
196.6
203.2
Without Young
0-6
310.8
172.3
138.5

One award, however, is not too close to call and that is the Comeback Player of the Year, which should immediately be given to Titans quarterback Vince Young. He did not open the season as the starter, and there was even talk around Nashville that he might just be like so many country stars -- a one-hit wonder, never to be heard from again. But since he entered the starting lineup after the Titans opened the season 0-6, Young can be called a hit on every level. With him under center and the sensational Chris Johnson in the backfield, the Titans' offense is scary.

The combination of those two might allow the Titans to sneak into the playoffs.

Young did what all great quarterbacks have to do Sunday -- lead his team from behind in the fourth quarter to a victory. Nothing bonds a team or endears them to their quarterback more than when he is able to deliver in the clutch.

"Close" does not cut it, "almost winning" does not do the trick, but driving a team 99 yards for a score on the last play of the game will forever connect Young as the man at the helm in Tennessee.

Fear often does the work of reason, and in Young's case, being fearful of losing his career may have forced him to re-evaluate the kind of player he wanted to become.

He entered the league on his God-given talents, which always allowed him to dominate at every level of competition during his athletic career. But when he was faced with his first stumbling block at the start of last season, Young became distant and aloof, while almost questioning his love of the game. The Titans moved along without Young, proving to him that they could still win without him at quarterback. That left him watching as the team he was supposed to lead finished with 13 wins.

Young seemed so distant last season that he was not even around his teammates during their playoff loss to the Ravens, nor did he seem interested in the game.

The 2009 version of Vince Young is the real deal. He is no longer sulking, or complaining. He is just working on his craft and clearly has matured. He knows that playing well in the league requires hard work and dedication. Talent alone is not enough.

After the Titans' marvelous win Sunday, what impressed me even more was the postgame press conference. Young was not willing to take bows. He was already thinking of the next game, the next challenge, the next way to win a game. He was not bitter towards his detractors, as he now understands the difference between coaching and criticism.

Someone once said: "Life is never about what we achieve but rather what we have overcome" and Young has overcome a great deal. I hope he will keep charging and keep growing -- this Young is fun to watch.

Sunday's best

» Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger has helped Young grow as a player, and designed a game plan that resulted in over 500 yards of offense against the Arizona Cardinals. The Titans went down the field in their final drive and didn't use a timeout until they were in the red zone. That is good coaching.

» The San Diego Chargers have found their rhythm offensively, and Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd are both headaches to cover for any team with smaller corners. No team can throw the deep ball better than the Chargers and no team has receivers that are harder to match up with each week.

» Led by Favre, the Vikings' offense has been great all year. Perhaps most impressive is that Favre did not throw a single interception in the month of November. Favre has run the offense magnificently and seems to have a connection with all the skill players, especially tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who has eight touchdowns this year.

» The Eagles needed 11 fourth-quarter points to rally and beat the very feisty Washington Redskins, who seemed determined to upset a division opponent. The Eagles were led by Donovan McNabb, who is 10-4 against the 'Skins in his career. After not getting a first down in the third quarter, the Eagles gained 156 yards in the fourth quarter alone to win the game.

» The Jets' defense returned to early-season form, holding the Panthers to under 200 yards of offense and scoring a touchdown to help them break a three-game losing streak. The Jets held the Panthers to 4-for-16 on third down and created four turnovers.

NFL Weekly Countdown
Where does Vikings QB Brett Favre's impressive outing against the visiting Bears rank among Week 12's top performances? This is your chance to make the call and cast your vote!

Sunday funnies

» Kyle Boller of the Rams had a chance to show the league he deserves to be a starting quarterback, but unfortunately he was turnover-prone, throwing two interceptions as the Rams lost their 11th straight at home.

» The Bears cannot stop the run, they cannot defend the pass and they cannot get off the field on third down. They ran just 38 plays to the Vikings' 83. I know Jay Cutler throws way too many interceptions, but there is more wrong with the Bears than just him. They are a bad team.

» Speaking of bad, the Chiefs have allowed 400 yards or more in eight of the 11 games they have played this season. They cannot slow anyone's offense down (expect the Raiders and Redskins) and I am sure they are going to be looking for a ton of defensive help this offseason.

» The Texans just do not believe they can win against the Colts. No matter what the score might say, they seem to expect something bad to happen along the way, and normally it does. The Texans are just not tough enough as a team to win these type of games ... yet.

On the lookout

» There was a playoff atmosphere in Baltimore on Sunday night as both the Steelers and Ravens were desperate for a win and played that way. The best thing about the next five weeks is we will have more games like that one. The intensity will keep rising.

» No one wants to play the Tennessee Titans right now and next up are the Colts, who have already clinched the AFC South. The Colts hold a three-game lead for home-field advantage with five to go. The Titans always give the Colts a good game in Indy and they know how to beat them.

» I realize the Steelers are going through a little slump right now, but more than just losing three in a row, is the fact that they no longer look dominant at stopping the run. The Ravens ran the ball effectively on them, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and the Steelers' defense uncharacteristically allowed 393 total yards. There are cracks in Pittsburgh's defensive armor.

Off the beaten track

» Charlie Weis may not have been the right coach for Notre Dame, but he was always viewed as an outstanding NFL play-caller. Even at Notre Dame, he called a good game, but often times in college it is more about recruiting than calling plays. He will have many teams bidding for his services.

» The Eagles won the toss Sunday, decided to defer to the second half, and then went out and tried an onside kick. If they wanted the ball so badly to start the game, they should have just taken the ball. It was a strange decision.

» Speaking of strange, one of my pet peeves is allowing teams to score at the end of the half when it can be prevented. The Redskins played great red-zone defense near the end of the first half, and forced the Eagles to kick a field goal, which cut Washington's lead to 14-13. Instead of going into the half up, Washington tried to run its 2-minute offense (which it do not execute well), and turned the ball over. The Eagles got a cheap three points, which was the difference in the final score. Mistakes like these cost coaches jobs.

Three-step dot drops ...

Only three road teams won in Week 12: The Colts, Seahawks and Packers. Does this favor the Saints on Monday night? … The Giants' lack of team speed in the back seven of their defense is going to keep them from making the playoffs. Their supposed two areas of strength as a team (offensive and defensive line) are not dominating to offset their weaknesses. … How can the Jacksonville Jaguars be taken seriously as a playoff team when all they can muster on the road in Seattle and San Francisco is three combined points? In my mind, they are not a playoff team. When I think of Jacksonville, I can hear Jim Mora, screaming, "playoffs?" … The Jets turned the ball over three more times, but were able to overcome those mistakes as they played a more mistake-prone team in the Panthers. How can Carolina possibly enter 2010 with Jake Delhomme on the roster? Changes seem likely in Carolina. … It is nice to know the Buffalo Bills have an offense that is capable of making a few plays. Don't forget wide receiver Terrell Owens does not have a contract next year, so he is playing for one right now. Money is a great motivator. … 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is improving and he seems like he plays well against a certain level of competition. What he must prove to his teammates, the fans and the front office is that he is capable of leading this team in a come-from-behind win against a playoff-caliber team. … Was Brady Quinn that good against the Lions, or were the Lions that bad? Based on their defense Thanksgiving Day, the Lions are really bad on that side of the ball. And based on Sunday, I am still not sold that Quinn can be the future for the Browns.

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