Kerry Collins was sharp, and Vince Young tentative for the Tennessee Titans in overshadowing Terrell Owens’ debut for the Buffalo Bills.
With a little trickery and a solid performance by the Collins-led starting offense, Tennessee opened the preseason with a 21-18 win in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday night in Canton, Ohio.
If this was the NFL’s throwback weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Football League, then this also resembled the Titans’ quarterback situation at the beginning of last year. That’s when Young got off to a terrible start and lost his starting job to Collins by Week 2.
Collins, already selected the starter, quickly began delivering on the faith the Titans put in him after being signed to a two-year $15 million contract this offseason.
He went 7-of-10 for 82 yards in producing two touchdown drives, one capped by reserve punter A.J. Trapasso’s 40-yard run on a perfectly executed fake punt on the opening possession. Collins was especially efficient in going 3 for 4 for 49 yards on third down.
“I thought we got off to a good start,” Collins said. “We executed our offense and played fast out there.”
The same couldn’t be said for Young, who took over at the start of the second quarter. In his first three series, Young was 1-of-5 for 13 yards and an interception, nearly dropped a shotgun snap and looked hesitant running the ball when he was easily caught from behind by rookie linebacker Nic Harris.
Young finally warmed up, and showed great touch in hitting Paul Williams for a 5-yard touchdown pass to convert third-and-2 to put the Titans up 21-3 late in the second quarter. The No. 3 selection in the 2006 draft still has a long way to go to regain his once-dominating form. In five series, Young went 5-of-10 for 39 yards, and a 1-yard run.
The Bills were sluggish and looked nothing like the better-prepared team, considering Buffalo opened training camp two weeks ago – a week ahead of the Titans.
The only offensive highlights were provided by Owens, who signed a one-year $6.5 million contract with Buffalo in early March, days after being released by Dallas.
On the field for only one series, Owens had two catches for 27 yards, including a 16-yarder on the second play from scrimmage. Trent Edwards hit Owens in perfect stride on a slant, and the receiver had the opportunity to score if not for a perfect tackle by cornerback Cortland Finnegan. The drive, however, ended when Edwards floated a pass intended for Lee Evans at the Titans’ 7 and was easily intercepted by Cortland Finnegan.
“It’s good to get the cobwebs out,” Edwards said. “(The rhythm) is just what we are trying to find right now. ... We just can’t turn the ball over.”
Owens was greeted by chants of “T.O.! T.O.!” by the partisan Buffalo crowd that stayed an extra day after Bills defensive end Bruce Smith and team owner Ralph Wilson were among six inducted into the Hall.
Bills cornerback Reggie Corner scored on a 26-yard interception return off fourth-stringer Alex Mortensen, while kicker Ryan Lindell hit all three field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder.
LenDale White scored on a 3-yard run on the Titans first-stringers’ only other series, capping an 11-play, 73-yard drive.
In honor of the AFL, the Titans, who relocated from Houston, wore Oilers throwback uniforms. The Bills wore their throwback uniforms, which feature the red standing buffalo logo on their helmets. And even the officials dressed for the occasion, wearing throwback AFL red-and-white striped shirts.
Tennessee players also wore No. 9 decals on the backs of their helmets in honor of former quarterback Steve McNair, who was shot to death in a Nashville condominium by his girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who then killed herself on July 4. The Titans will wear the decal for the rest of the season.
The teams will meet again in the regular season, at Tennessee on Nov. 15.
Moreno makes debut
The Denver Broncos were pleased to get Knowshon Moreno into camp and not just because their top draft pick is the cornerstone of coach Josh McDaniels’ reconstruction project.
“Now we’ve got a new rookie to haze on and sing for us and do a few little extracurricular activities to make training camp go by a little faster,” receiver Brandon Stokley said with a smile.
Moreno, the top running back selected in the NFL draft, should make the Broncos’ offense move faster.
The exceptional University of Georgia running back who joined Herschel Walker as the only Bulldogs to post consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, was the 12th overall pick and the first selection made by McDaniels, who replaced Mike Shanahan in the offseason.
Moreno held out for eight days before signing a five-year, $23 million deal Saturday.
“It’s definitely a lot better with Knowshon out there, we know he’s a great talent and I wish I could have six of him out there with me,” fullback Peyton Hillis said. “He’s going to do great things for this team.”
Even though he missed a dozen practices, Moreno will play Friday night at San Francisco in the Broncos’ preseason opener, McDaniels said.
The Cleveland Browns signed veteran offensive lineman Fred Weary. ... The Detroit Lions signed linebacker Spencer Smith and released Curtis Gatewood. ... Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton left practice with a knee injury, although coach Mike Tomlin said the four-time Pro Bowl player is expected to be fine.