After recent drought Cook puts up big numbers in win over Jaguars

Saturday, December 24, 2011 at 6:35pm

Jared Cook never has been someone who plays with his “hand in the dirt,” as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck described it.

“He’s a little bit more like a receiver than a tight end,” Hasselbeck said.

Recently, though, the third-year tight end went through a stretch where he simply did not get his hands on the ball.

Back-to-back games without a reception at the start of this month seemed like a distant memory Saturday when he set a franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end in the Tennessee Titans’ 23-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field.

Cook finished with eight catches for 169 yards and scored a first-quarter touchdown on a 55-yard reception. The previous mark of 150 yards, set by Hall of Famer Dave Casper, had been on the books since 1980.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I just wanted to kind of prove to the players what I could really be. [Offensive coordinator Chris] Palmer kind of gave me the opportunity to do that [Saturday].”

Cook caught at least one pass in every quarter beginning with three — two for first downs and one for the touchdown — in the first quarter. He added three more in the second quarter and one each in the third and fourth. His final reception went for 29 yards on third-and-5 and helped the Titans hold the ball for the last 3:41.

Six days earlier at Indianapolis he established career-highs with nine catches and 103 yards, the latter of which did not last long. That came after Buffalo and New Orleans held him without a catch.

With one game remaining he is third on the team with 45 receptions and second with 696 yards. His three touchdown receptions are tied for third. All of those are career-highs in a season for the third-round draft choice in 2009.

“I went through a little drought with the Bills game and Saints game, I think, where I had no catches,” Cook said. “You just got to keep rolling with the punches. … You just got to keep riding the roller coaster.”

Hasselbeck said Cook and the rest of the offense took advantage of Jacksonville’s defensive approach, which often left Cook one-on-one with a linebacker or a safety.

On the touchdown catch, for example, the 6-foot-5, 248-pounder ran by linebacker Paul Posluszny down the middle of the field and had room to run once he caught the ball.

“[Posluszny] is a great player but you can’t run with Cookie like that,” Hasselbeck said. “It was a close play, a play of inches on that but Jared came down with the play and it was a huge score.”

His overall performance did more than just measure up.

“He had a huge day,” coach Mike Munchak said. “We talk about him and what a great talent he is, and [Saturday] he put it all together. … Great for us for getting him the football as much as we did and [it] made a big difference.”

Briefly

• The Titans were not called for a penalty.

It was just the fifth time in franchise history and the first since Oct. 29, 1972 at Cincinnati that happened. Their previous season-low was three penalties (for 40 yards) in a victory over Indianapolis on Oct. 30.

• Kicker Rob Bironas set an NFL record when he made at least one field goal of 40 yards or more for the ninth consecutive game.

He set the mark when he gave the Titans a 3-0 lead with a 51-yard kick in the first quarter. He added another 51-yarder in the third quarter.

For the season he has made 26 of 29, including six of seven from 50 yards or more. His previous high for 50-plus yard field goals in a season was five (2009).

• Wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins (ankle) and defensive end Jason Jones (ankle) each were injured during the game. Neither issue was considered serious.

Running back Chris Johnson came out for two plays in the second half after Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith leveled him. He returned to action, though, and afterward said he had the wind knocked out of him.

“It definitely wasn’t a clean play,” he said of the hit. “I wasn’t looking.”