By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 16, 2006
Vince Young limped from the trainer's room to his locker, his left ankle wrapped and his right knee bandaged. He slowly put on a pinstriped suit, a flowery teal tie and aqua earrings.
"Hey," he said, nodding to a member of the Titans' public relations staff. "It straight?"
It wasn't. The man walked over and straightened the tie of the quarterback who looked more like a young business tycoon than the exuberant quarterback who months earlier had danced around the Rose Bowl after leading the Texas Longhorns to the national championship. His calm face and humble demeanor belied what he had accomplished about an hour earlier at FedEx Field. In victimizing the Washington Redskins and leading the Tennessee Titans to a 25-22 victory, he had earned his first NFL win in his third start.
Young threw for 161 yards on 13-of-25 passing, throwing one touchdown pass. He rushed six times for 10 yards. They weren't the gaudy numbers he put up at Texas or the kind of stats he is expected to run up someday, but the player who could do anything on a college field won yesterday by doing just enough.
He threw no interceptions. His lone fumble fell into the hands of an offensive lineman. But he showed flashes, signs that encouraged his coach.
"He looked like a veteran quarterback, with his decisions and his accuracy," Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said. "He didn't do anything out of the ordinary today. I don't think Vince lacks confidence. He expects to win. I think he met his expectations today."
"It's my first NFL win," Young said. "It means a lot. I knew it was coming, because of the progress of our team."
At one point, it seemed Young might not finish off the victory. He scrambled on third and six midway through the fourth quarter, sprinting for a first down before a handful of Redskins stopped him. When the players emerged from the pile, Young stayed down, clutching a twisted left ankle. Fisher came on to the field to examine his quarterback, who hobbled off as the Titans punt team ran on.
"The confidence I have and the competitor I am, I knew I was coming back," Young said. "If it was broken, I was coming back out there."
And he did. All he did was hand off five times on the winning drive, but he continued to earn the trust of teammates who have already warmed to him.
"I think he's getting more comfortable as things move along," Titans center Kevin Mawae said. "As he gets into a groove and gets into a rhythm, it's evident in the huddle. The stage he's in now is looking at the wristband and trying to read numbers off. But he's doing a good job. He comes in there, and takes command of the huddle."
The Titans needed Young most on their first drive of the third quarter. Facing fourth and two at the Washington 31, Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow called for a play-action pass.
"We've been looking at that all week," Young said. "Those guys go Cover Zero. They thought we were pretty much going to hand it off."
Young faked a handoff and looked off his first read, which was covered, then saw Brandon Jones, his second read, running open across the middle, a step ahead of Kenny Wright. Young, with that short-arm flick he perfected at Texas, flung the pass into Jones'shands for a 23-yard gain. Three plays later, Travis Henry scored the touchdown that gave Tennessee a 20-14 lead.
"He is an exceptional football player," Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said. "He is really cool and calm. I think he is one of the premier football players in the NFL. I think they have a real special person."