Close call: Titans rally but fall short against Indianapolis

Friday, December 10, 2010 at 1:10am

The art of drafting is practiced routinely in stock car racing, often to dramatic effect. One car builds tremendous forward momentum as it rides in the slipstream created by another and — at just the right time — pulls out and lets said momentum propel it to the front.

The Tennessee Titans staged a football version of that strategy Thursday night after they spotted the Indianapolis Colts a 21-point first-half lead.

Only when it came time to make a daring move with the potential to give them the lead did coach Jeff Fisher take his foot off the throttle. Rather than attempt a fourth-and-1 from his own 34 with fewer than five minutes to play, Fisher chose to punt.

As a result, when the Titans made their final move they were too far behind. Bo Scaife’s 2-yard touchdown reception as time expired, and the subsequent point-after, left them two points short and they lost their sixth straight game, 30-28.

That finish was decidedly anticlimactic for the sellout crowd at LP Field, which booed the decision to punt at the moment it was made.

“It was fourth-and-1 … I had three timeouts and there was 4:57 [to go] when I looked at the clock,” Fisher said. “We needed to have the ball last to beat them.

“… You could always second-guess that, but I felt with a punt if we could get a stop, get the ball back and all we’d need is a touchdown for a chance to win the game.”

The only thing that didn’t happen that way was the stop. Indianapolis instead drove 46 yards and got a 47-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri, which ultimately provided the winning margin.

The Colts managed only one first down on that drive, but it was a big one. Pierre Garcon turned a short reception on second-and-10 into a 43-yard gain (the second-longest play of the contest) when he broke a couple tackles and got free down the right sideline.

“They had some momentum going, so that was huge,” Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell said. “… They were feeling good about what they were getting accomplished from an offensive standpoint.”

At the start of play, the Titans seemed ill-equipped to come from behind, no matter how small the margin, following three weeks of scoring malaise. They entered the contest 13 quarters removed from their last offensive touchdown and with increasing questions about their ability to run the ball.

Thus, when the Colts sped off to a 21-0 lead with touchdowns on three of their first five possessions, it seemed a safe assumption that they had left the home team in their dust.

“I think we answered a lot of questions as far as quitting,” linebacker Stephen Tullouch said. “Last [Sunday], a lot of people asked us, ‘Did we quit?’ … We were down 21 and we made it a ballgame. No one thought we’d make it a ballgame, but we kept on fighting down to the last play of the game.”

They began to close ground when the offense, which punted twice and fumbled away possession twice (the second time on a bad punt snap) on its first four drives, went 55 yards in 1:36 and scored a touchdown with 49 seconds to play in the first half. That same unit then took the second-half kickoff and went 62 yards in seven plays for another touchdown, which made it 21-14.

Then, in stark contrast to those three first-half touchdowns allowed, the defense held quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts’ attack, which ranked in the NFL’s top five in yards and points per game, to three field goals over the final two quarters.

Manning finished 25-for-35 for 319 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, which was only marginally better than Tennessee’s Kerry Collins (28-39, 244 yards, three touchdowns). Plus, running back Chris Johnson topped 100 yards rushing for the first time in three games (22 carries, 111 yards, one touchdown) and had a season-high eight receptions for 68 yards.

All told, the Colts outgained the Titans by a mere 34 yards, 399-365.

“We tried to limit them in the second half to just field goals — we did that,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. "We just started too slow. That was the biggest thing for us. … Yards don’t matter, points do with Peyton Manning.”

That’s what Fisher said he was thinking on the final drive, which exhausted the last 2:55 of game time.

At one juncture, he started to send out the field goal unit with the idea that he would get three points and then try for an onside kick. In that case, though, he eschewed any kicking option in an attempt to get as many points as possible as quickly as possible.

“We were talking about it, but a touchdown against them is hard with the way they’re built defensively,” Fisher said. “… I was hoping we would get some shots at the end zone there and we did.”

Of course, by then it was too late.

The decision to punt on the preceding drive stalled their comeback and allowed Indianapolis to expand its lead just far enough.

“Coach [Fisher], he’s the one that calls the shots,” Scaife said. “I think we had all the confidence in the world — Kerry was playing pretty good, we have the best running back in the NFL.

“But I know what he was thinking. You have a great quarterback on the other side and you don’t want to give him too many chances to put us away. It was a tough call for him, and that’s just how it is.”

19 Comments on this post:

By: gdiafante on 12/10/10 at 7:19

A few first hand observations from the game last night.

1. Traffic sucks. The Titans have been here 10+ years and they still can't find a way to ease traffic.

2. Empty seats. A sell out? Maybe, but it was no where near full capacity...and a nationally televised game...shame.

3. Obnoxious fans. Apparently fans yelling obscenities with children in close proximity is acceptable as long as the quip is clever. Parents who say nothing are just as much to blame. It's a shame that I had to spend most of the time reminding people there were children present (mine) rather than watching the game. A good family experience? Hardly.

4. Presentation. Terrible. There were so many dead spaces due to TV timeouts and the stadium activities in between bordered on pathetic. For the money, Preds games are much more entertaining (and the team is good).

Overall, I'm glad the tickets were free. I would not pay for that experience again. I'd rather stay at home and watch it on HD.

By: fdanshep on 12/10/10 at 8:18

What do we really gain by playing Collins for the rest of the year? He's likely not coming back. Lately Rusty was inactive with Simms as the back-up. They threw Rusty to the wolves when he couldn't lead an underachieving team to a win and now he is banished to the dead zone. I am really sick of the whole thing!

By: jwk6179 on 12/10/10 at 9:01

The GAME wasn't near as close as the FINAL SCORE indicated, but you couldn't tell that from the Nashville Sports and News Media. This morning, they were all on the air talking about HOW CLOSE the game was and how close the Titans came to pulling it out. You are down by 9 with almost 3 minutes left in the game and you need 2 scores but it takes you the WHOLE 3 Minutes to get your team into the RED ZONE so they can score a TOUCHDOWN with NO TIME LEFT to bring the Titans within 2 points. I think the COACHING STAFF QUIT IN THIS GAME INSTEAD OF THE PLAYERS!!!

By: jwk6179 on 12/10/10 at 9:03

The TURNSTILE COUNT for the Jacksonville game was 48,000, meaning 35% of the "Best Fans In The NFL" were NO-SHOWS for an IMPORTANT DIVISION GAME IN DECEMBER!!!!

By: TITAN1 on 12/10/10 at 9:49

Another great game day experience for my hometown Titans. Tailgate was fun as usual and the Titans played a lot better than they have in a long time. Enjoyed the game, I didn't think Manning would stay down for long. Hopefully we can get revenge on Houston. GO TITANS!

By: WayneJ on 12/10/10 at 9:52

Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. - Vince Lombardi

Mediocrity is hard to take - R.J. Corman

Because I am not satisfied. I have said this every year. To be satisfied is to begin the process of becoming complacent. We have assembled a tremendous
group of people here who share my passion for performance. CN will never be satisfied. - Paul Tellier, former President, Canadian National Railroad (currently the most profitable of the North American railroads).

Thought you could some quotes that mean something.


By: gdiafante on 12/10/10 at 10:11

Oh yeah, forgot about the tailgater that was puking on the sidewalk. The kids loved that.

Wayne, is the pack going to catch Da Bears?

By: WayneJ on 12/10/10 at 10:38

No denying Da Bearz are a good team. With any luck they beat up on the Pats enough this weekend to position GB to take NE the week after. It comes down to regular season finale as the best time to GB to pull even. The gravy would be for NE to beat CHI and GB to beat NE the following week - making the finale with CHI a tiebreaker-proof game for all the marbles - at Lambeau no less! I have to admit the kid wearing Zeke Bratkowski's old number is looking good at QB!

By: TITAN1 on 12/10/10 at 11:01

LOL! So obvious!

By: GUARDIAN on 12/10/10 at 11:04

GUARDIAN-Nashville, the Athens of the South is quickly losing it's CLASS. The left, political correctness, gangs, illegals, drugs, G-quys and self appointed elites have ripped the heart from Music City. Fourth-and-1 from their own 34 with fewer than five minutes to play and you want to take any chance of giving Payton Manning the ball back. LOL You give him the ball at that point you give Indy 7 points. So you blame Jeff Fisher the one for sure class act of the Titans for punting and you say that cost the Titans the game. I hope Fisher reads these posting and it is the straw that sends him to the Cowboys. Nashville deserves what it has been asking for.

By: govskeptic on 12/10/10 at 11:38

Truly no mistake for Fisher to have them punt on 4th and 1 with that
much time left. Titans have trouble with 3rd and 1 never any assurance
and if missed Colts would have surely scored again. This season is
over for playoffs. Time to play Rusty remainder of season to see if
there's enough potential for next yr. or spend or draft the future QB!

By: gdiafante on 12/10/10 at 11:53

"You give him the ball at that point you give Indy 7 points."

No, actually they only got 3 points. And if the defense would have made a routine tackle on Garcon, they probably don't even get that. Seems everyone is forgetting that little piece of information this morning.

By: richgoose on 12/10/10 at 12:03

gdiafante......You are just not ready for prime time..,...I regret that someone gave you some free tickets.

NFL football is just not your cup of tea. There are a lot people like you that think NFL football should be more like a piano recital.

Well, you learned your lesson. I don't expect you to be back this season or next season. At least that is my wish.

Ice hockey and thinking this country should be tolerant of people like you are the things that are dear to you. We understand!

By: gdiafante on 12/10/10 at 12:07, Frank...I don't like my children to be exposed to drunks who curse. If you do, congrats.

By: Titan9282 on 12/10/10 at 1:32

I hate to say this, but this is the WORST Titans team this city has ever known. Let me tell you why. 2001......7-9. Injury bug hits the Titans, Secondary especially. We lose some close tough games. 2004........5-11. Salary Cap Purge. Lose good players. Season spirals out of control. 2005..........4-12 Salary Cap Purge. Lose Mason, Rolle, Kevin Carter, etc. McNair is hurt and misses most of the year. and now 2010........????? My point is there is not a reason we should be this bad. We start the year 5-2 after 7 games. Defense is getting sacks and turnovers. THE OFFENSE IS #1 IN THE NFL WITH POINTS SCORED. 8 Weeks later, we are the worst team in the NFL. How the hell does that happen? The Defense sucks, Chuck Cecil is the worst coordinator in the NFL, the offense does not know how to use their talent (Moss), and our Head Coach does not know how to take risks. Look, I was at the game last night and I was embarrassed to see the empty seats and Colts fans that showed up. But, then I realized that it is not the fans fault. They are tired. Tired of this CRAP. I was a huge Fisher supporter. That is over. I say Fire Fisher, I say trade Young, and start this thing over. This is pathetic. And yes, they should have went for 4th and 1. And, you know, if they did not make it, well at least they tried and they are no worse off than the way the game ended anyway. This is BS. And if any Titans fans disagree with this, then wake up. There is no sunshine and roses out at Baptist Sports Park. This STINKS and I demand that changes be made. We as the fans deserve better than this. And lastly, I want to apologize to all the Titans season ticket holders. I am sorry that you had to spend your hard earned money to watch this garbage and not see any changes made when they knew they had a problem with their defense. See Ya Fisher, See ya Young, and See ya Chuck Cecil. You are useless!!!!!!

By: jwk6179 on 12/10/10 at 1:46

LOL! So obvious!

What exactly is SO OBVIOUS, TITAN1? How about letting US in on your little JOKE!!!

By: jwk6179 on 12/10/10 at 2:05

3. Obnoxious fans. Apparently fans yelling obscenities with children in close proximity is acceptable as long as the quip is clever. Parents who say nothing are just as much to blame. It's a shame that I had to spend most of the time reminding people there were children present (mine) rather than watching the game. A good family experience? Hardly.

That's been going on for years during SPORTING EVENTS in Nashville. I remember a Titans/Colts game from several years ago that I attended and there were a few Colts fans with their children sitting in a few rows in front of me. After the Colts scored a TD, the Colts fans stood up to cheer their team and they were pelted, along with their KIDS, with Pop Corn, Pizza and BEER by several members of "THE BEST FANS IN THE NFL". The next time the Colts scored, they cheered again only to pelted again by Beer, Pop Corn and Pizza. Yet when security game up to Section 331 to check on what was going on, NOT ONE MEMBER OF THE "BEST FANS IN THE NFL" knew anything about it. The Colts' fans had to be escorted out Section 331 for their own safety.

By: WayneJ on 12/10/10 at 4:08

Sum up this problem in two words - absentee ownership.

Predators are good because local investors are committed to making it a good products that stays in Nashville. Adams can sit in Houston and insulate himself (whether or not he knows it is another matter completely) from the problems his 700+ miles away team is having and will continue to have under his ownership. I'd go further up the ladder with the house cleaning in this organization. If this is to be Tennessee's team (subsitute Nashville if you like) it needs to be in the hands of state/local ownership, not in the hands of a relic from Texas (substitute "elsewhere" if you like) who isn't committed to the principles stated in my first post.

CN makes their top brass reside in Montreal to stay on top of the top. Even native Memphian E. Hunter Harrison had to relocate from his Chicago post as Illinois Central Railroad president (CN had bought out IC by then) when he joined the CN management team (one of his favorite phrases was "Bonjour, y'all!) enroute to becoming CN's President.

If Adams won't relocate to Nashville to watch this business it doesn't need to be his business anymore. We should even consider the Green Bay Packers business model, which more resembles a cooperative structure, and find the funding necessary to buy Adams out and truly make this team the Tennessee Titans, not the Absentee Owner Titans.

By: courier37027 on 12/13/10 at 8:55

WayneJ, years ago Bud Adams ownership stake in the Nashville Kats meant instant credibility for Nashville as a major player in Arean Football League. Between Predators and Kats, the Nashville Arena would turn away concerts because of too many booked nights. Local tax revenues would go to schools, public works, solve all our city's problems. Absentee ownership is not a problem when looking through the eyes of Tass 104.5.