One of the great truths in athletics is that no one asks how you won.
They ask if you won.
Good thing for the Tennessee Titans too. Suddenly their victories – outside of Chris Johnson’s sudden resurgence, at least – are short on style points and long on seemingly unnecessary drama.
With four games remaining in the regular season it’s clear that this team is not an anaconda – it does not relentlessly squeeze the life out of the opposition. It is not a piranha – there is no precision strike after a period of careful measurement.
At the moment, Mike Munchak’s first unit looks more like a bull rider. It gets up, holds on for dear life and hopes time runs out before it gets crushed.
Ty Murray would be proud of the most recent efforts. Perhaps the franchise’s marketing department ought to reach out to him and see if his wife, Jewel, is available to sing the national anthem at one of the two remaining home games. No one could possibly be more appropriate at the moment.
The latest example of this style was Sunday’s 23-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Things seemed well in hand with 8:55 to go when, after Rob Bironas’ third field goal of the day, the Titans led by 13. After that the Bills’ offense came up with three of its eight biggest gains of the contest. That at a time when the defense ought to be playing it safe.
Buffalo put together a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that somehow took only 2:58 off the clock and got within six points – as close as it had been since the opening minutes of the second quarter. It got the ball back with 1:02 remaining and in two plays went from its own 15 to the 46 – within range of the end zone.
The Titans and Bills have played some dramatic games in their time. So it was not unthinkable that a Hail Mary or some other sort of dramatic ending was afoot. Instead, one clock-stopping spike and three incompletions – none on throws more than 21 yards down the field – later it was over.
If how a team won actually counted, this one would not have meant near as much as earlier triumphs such as the 13-point win over Baltimore or the 27-point rout of Carolina.
It was not all that different than a week earlier when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got to the Tennessee 25 in the closing seconds before the issue finally was settled with a failed fourth down attempt. The final score of that game was 23-17 too, by the way.
Keep in mind that this team had not won back-to-back games in more than two months. So the most important thing is that with two in a row the Titans are 7-5 and very much in the hunt for an AFC wild card berth even if its division title hopes are fading rapidly.
That’s more wins than they had all of last season and as many as Jeff Fisher had in his first full season as a head coach.
Look at the conference standings, though, and it is impossible not to think that had the Titans only defeated the Cincinnati Bengals they would be in complete control of their own postseason destiny. But that’s one they let get away – or one in which they failed to hold on – as they were outscored 17-0 in the second half, including 10-0 in the fourth quarter.
If it comes down to a tiebreaker between those two people are only going to ask who won. Nothing more.