CANTON, Ohio - For a preseason opener, Kerry Collins felt like he was already picking up from where he was last season in leading Tennessee to the playoffs. As for Vince Young, it’s one step at a time before he feels capable of regaining his dominant form.
Overshadowing Terrell Owens’ debut for the Buffalo Bills, the two Titans quarterbacks combined to produce three touchdown drives in a 21-18 win to kick off the NFL’s preseason in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday night.
“I’m encouraged,” Collins said, entering his 15th season. “It doesn’t take as long to get ready, but I’ll take advantage of the work I’m going to get.
He was certainly efficient in the two series he got against the Bills, by quickly delivering on the faith the Titans put in him after being signed to a two-year $15 million contract this offseason.
Already selected as the starter, Collins 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.
Young needed to shake off plenty of rust before he finally produced. After going 1-of-5 for 13 yards and an interception in his first three series, Young showed great touch in hitting Paul Williams for a 5-yard touchdown pass to put the Titans up 21-3 late in the second quarter.
“It happens, man,” Young said of his sluggish start. “I know everybody wants me to go out and be perfect, but it’s not happening like that. You can’t just jump into it.”
In five series, Young went 5-of-10 for 39 yards, and a 1-yard run. And yet far more is expected from the player selected No. 3 in the 2006 draft, and who’s future with the Titans is clouded since losing the starting job at the start of last season.
The Bills have plenty of work to do, too. Buffalo looked sluggish and nothing like the better-prepared team, considering it 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.
For Bills fans, it was important to see Owens get involved early. For T.O., it was no big deal.
“It was just what was open, Trent saw it and threw it to me,” Owens said of his first catch. “Whether or not it was a statement remains to be seen. I feel comfortable with the offense. I like it in Buffalo, but we all have a lot of work to do.”
That was apparent with how the drive ended, when Edwards floated a pass intended for Lee Evans at the Titans’ 7 and was easily intercepted by Michael Griffin.
Edwards focused mostly on the positives.
“We can build off that one opening series,” said Edwards, who exclusively ran a no-huddle attack. “Preseason is about getting comfortable. You make mistakes, then work on them. But you can take a good drive like that and go with it, too.”
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.
The game was part of the NFL celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Football League, pitting two original franchises. 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.
Young even went one step further, pulling on a McNair jersey at his locker in honor of a person he considered his mentor, and in what better setting than the Hall of Fame.
“One day he’s definitely going to be in the Hall of Fame, and I wanted to walk around and show that this jersey will be sitting here one day,” Young said.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.
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