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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Losing to Vince Young is getting old for Matt Leinart

In reprise of USC-Texas national-title game in 2006, former Trojan can only watch, again, as Young beats his team at the finish, this time with a fourth-down touchdown pass giving Titans a 20-17 win over the Cardinals.

November 30, 2009|Sam Farmer
  • Quarterback Vince Young celebrates after leading the Titans to a 20-17 victory over Arizona with a last-second touchdown pass.
Quarterback Vince Young celebrates after leading the Titans to a 20-17… (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )

It was a replay, just not an instant one.

Almost four years after Vince Young led the Texas Longhorns to a national-championship victory over the Matt Leinart-led USC Trojans, those two college stars -- the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2006 draft -- finally faced each other again.

Last time, Young scored the winning touchdown on fourth down at the end of the game.

This time?

You guessed it.

Young threw a fourth-down touchdown pass on the game's final play to lift the Tennessee Titans to a 20-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, quarterbacked by Leinart.

It was a 10-yard strike to rookie Kenny Britt, who leaped above a crowd of players to pull down the winning pass. And although the game didn't have the historic heft of that Rose Bowl classic, it did keep the back-from-the-dead Titans rolling with their fifth consecutive victory.

While Young was orchestrating the winning drive, Titans fullback Ahmard Hall -- who played with him on that national championship team -- made the rounds on the sideline assuring players the former Longhorns star would get it done.

"He just has a knack for the spotlight," Hall said.

Leinart, starting in place of the injured Kurt Warner (concussion), was 21 for 31 for 220 yards. Young completed 27 of 43 passes for a career-high 387 yards.

"I thought Vince played great," Leinart said. "He made plays in that last series, so hats off to him. I thought our defense played phenomenally, he just made some plays."

Tennessee's next challenge is its toughest so far: at undefeated Indianapolis. The Colts posted a 31-9 victory over the Kerry Collins-led Titans in Week 5.

Rematch in the making

Everything is falling into place for the Colts.

They're 11-0, have clinched the AFC South and thereby are the first team to secure a playoff berth, and proved again that even a bleak situation -- a 17-point deficit on the road -- isn't so dire if you have Peyton Manning at quarterback. They crawled out of that hole to beat Houston, 35-27.

Still, as good as things are right now, the Colts cannot ignore those two little words. (Hint: Starts with San, ends with Diego.)

That's right, the team that knocked the Colts out of the playoffs the last two seasons -- first in Indianapolis, then in San Diego -- is getting hotter by the week. The Chargers collected their sixth consecutive victory Sunday, breaking the 40-point barrier for the first time, and wrapping up their division schedule by crushing Kansas City, 43-14.

Football players are trained to concentrate on the schedule's next opponent, but don't be fooled -- the Colts (and the rest of the AFC) can't help but notice the only Left Coast team getting things right.

"I think we are a pretty good team," San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson said Sunday. "I think we can challenge any team and beat any team. I think it shows what kind of a team we really are when we come play like this against a team we are supposed to beat."

Since their 2-3 start, the Chargers have outscored opponents 188-83, and Philip Rivers has thrown four touchdowns for every interception.

Yawn patrol

Earlier this season, Philadelphia at Atlanta was a game to circle on the calendar, because it meant Michael Vick going back to face his old team. Now, you wonder whether anyone will notice. Vick, who makes his return to Atlanta on Sunday, seldom sets foot on the field. He has completed three of nine passes, and has run 15 times for 65 yards.

Inside the helmet

Concussions kept two of the league's best quarterbacks out of action Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger and Warner were sidelined after taking blows to the head a week earlier.

Now, the NFL reportedly will expand restrictions on returning to games for players who suffer head trauma.

According to a Fox report, Commissioner Roger Goodell will issue a memo this week to all 32 teams, expanding grounds for the removal of a player who has suffered a head injury or concussion.

As it is, a concussed player can return to a game as long as he is no longer exhibiting symptoms and has been cleared by the team doctor. The lone exception is when the player has lost consciousness at any point, in which case he would be ruled out for the remainder of the game.

A TD for the Irish?

Don't be surprised if NBC's Tony Dungy isn't in TV for the long haul. Watch for him to head back to coaching, maybe to Notre Dame, where he could be reunited with Jack Swarbrick, the school's athletic director. Swarbrick and Dungy are tight from their days in Indianapolis, where Swarbrick was a lawyer who led that city's successful bid to host the 2012 Super Bowl.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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