ARLINGTON, Texas _ The Tennessee Titans offense runs through Chris Johnson.
No argument there.
But in Sunday's 34-27 upset of the Dallas Cowboys, the Titans found out that the offense can also pass through their opponents, especially when the target is second-year man Kenny Britt.
Britt, making his first start of the season in place of injured Justin Gage, proved to be a needed difference-maker at the receiver position, catching four passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, plus netting two critical pass interference calls of 35 and 13 yards with Britt going against Dallas defender Mike Jenkins.
“That was our key to the whole game,” said Britt, who caught a 12-yard touchdown from Vince Young, marking his third straight game with a TD catch. “We knew he was a quick corner, and doesn't like giving up the deep ball. That's what we wanted to do was pump the ball down the field to see what he was going to do, to see if he was going to sit or going to run back in coverage. He was to sit the first couple of times. That's the reason we got past him.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said that was the Titans' plan early to try and make the Dallas defense pay for crowding the line to stop Johnson.
“We had a chance to go deep. Kenny gets him one-on-one, and he had a chance to win,” Heimerdinger said. “It was a matter of Kenny separating. We expected a lot of man free early, and we had go routes off of some of them.”
Later, in the second half, Britt burned Jenkins again with a 52-yard reception that came within a slight hand-tap from Jenkins of being an 80-yard touchdown. In fact, it was ruled as much on the field, but replay overturned the call when it showed Jenkins touched Britt, causing him to fall. Britt popped up, believing his was untouched and raced to the end zone, eventually for naught.
“I definitely didn't think he touched me at all. That's why I popped right up,” Britt said.
With the call being overturned, the Titans eventually settled for a Rob Bironas field goal of 40 yards.
Regardless, the ability to do damage in the passing game, and viability of Britt as a playmaker, had been established.
On that deep pass, Heimerdinger said Cowboys coach Wade Phillips had shifted his alignment in the secondary from man free to a quarter coverage zone, giving Britt the chance to make a play.
“When I called it, he had switched to quarters, and we talked all week about how if we get this coverage, Kenny is going to split them, and we caught the coverage and got lucky,” Heimerdinger said.
Lucky perhaps, but Britt also showed the type of playmaking skills the Titans desperately needed at the receiver position on Sunday.
The Titans have been reluctant to hand Britt a full-time role in the offense because of maturity issues and practice habits, but on Sunday, Britt stated his case for more playing time with a showcase performance.
Britt's performance was not lost on his quarterback Vince Young on Sunday.
"He's so explosive. He has great speed. He can run like a horse. He's very aggressive. When you've got a guy like that streaking down the field, just get the ball in the air," Young said. "I always tell him when we break the huddle, 'Just run' and he did that right there. That was a great play by him. He had pretty much a great game the whole day, and I'm proud of him."