Even a two game winning streak wasn’t enough to stop the Titans from falling into some old habits that ultimately cost them a heartbreaking 19-13 loss at the hands of the rival Indianapolis Colts.
After leading most of the game only to have Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck drive his team for a late fourth quarter touchdown, the Titan seeming to have a chance to put the game away with just 3:08 remaining in the game.
Starting with possession at their own 20 in a tie game, the stage was set for Matt Hasselbeck and Rob Bironas to pull off some late game heroics, but when the drive stalled at the Colts 41 yard line with 1:07 remaining the decision was made to punt the football rather than allow Bironas to attempt a potential game winning field goal in regulation.
“I was disappointed I’d missed one earlier, but that was a coaches decision whether to put me out there or not with a minute left so, you know, that’s his choice,” said a visibly upset Bironas in the locker room following the loss.
Asked if the coaches spoke with him prior to the decision to punt about a long attempt Bironas reiterated his previous answer.
“It was a coaches decision,” said Bironas.
Matt Hasselbeck was asked about the offense and what they needed for a field goal try late in regulation.
“We needed to get at least to the 35-yard line,” said Hasselebeck. “It was a windy day so we wanted to get closer if we could, but we wanted to get to the 35-yard line for a field goal attempt to win the game.”
Following the Titans punt, the Colts allowed the clock to expire and went to overtime where Luck would end the game with the only possession of the extra period.
After winning the coin toss to start the overtime, it took the Colts just nine plays to cover the 80 yards for the game winning score when Luck connected with Vic Ballard on a 16 yard touchdown pass.
Ballard was hit in the air by Michael Griffin at the goal line, but it was ruled a touchdown on the field and the call was upheld after video review.
Following the contest, Griffin was visibly upset, sitting in his locker, still in uniform several minutes after other players had dressed and left the stadium.
When asked about his thoughts on the outcome, Griffin, still visibly upset said, “Do I have to talk today, I’d rather not if that’s ok.”
The Titans defense however thought they had forced a turnover on the Colts last possession of regulation that would have allowed them another chance a the win, but play was ruled down when the Colts receiver Dwayne Allen was ruled down because his forward progress was stopped prior to the ball being forced out.
Allen made the reception at the Indianapolis 28 yard line and was immediately wrapped up around his legs as he turned by Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy. Fellow linebacker Akeem Ayers then his the struggling Allen, who was not down at that time, forcing the ball free where it was recovered by corner back Alterraun Verner at the Colts 25 yard line.
However the ruling was that Allen was down because his forward progress was stopped, and the Colts retained possession and ran out the clock to force overtime.
“I don’t know, it’s rare. You usually don’t see something like that, again we could sit here and bash the officials for not getting calls,” said Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak. “You’ve got to overcome that.”
For Luck, it was an impressive first visit to Nashville to face the Titans as the rookie completed 26 of 38 pass attempts for 297 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Hasselbeck was equally efficient as he connected on 22 of 29 passes for 236 yards and a score.
Chris Johnson, who had a breakout performance last week against Buffalo, ran well, ending the day with 99 yards on 21 carries for a 4.7 yard average.
While Johnson was pleased with his totals, the outcome of the game was not lost in his comments.
“We had some chances right there in the end,” said Johnson. “I think we went over the 50, then our next three plays we didn’t make any plays, we just kind of stopped right there.”
“It’s a situation where we had a chance to end it right there and not even have to go to overtime,” continued Johnson. “We just need to step up and execute the plays, we could have easily had the game.”
With today’s loss, the Titans find themselves sitting with a 3-5 record and await a chance at redemption next Sunday when the Chicago Bears and former Vanderbilt star Jay Cutler come to L.P. Field for a noon kickoff.