FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In the Tennessee Titans locker room, Keith Bulluck and Michael Griffin stood, glancing at the stat sheet and shaking their heads.
What else could they do after being on the receiving end of worst beating in modern NFL history Sunday, 59-0 courtesy of the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium?
The Patriots held a 45-point lead at the half, the largest lead at intermission since at least ever, and then continued to pound the hapless Titans into the snow with the final margin equaling the worst shutout loss since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger – a similar 59-0 victory by the Los Angeles Rams over Atlanta in 1976. It shattered the franchise mark for worst loss, erasing a 61-7 beating in 1989 at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It felt like they were trying to raise their ranking in the BCS,” Bulluck said of the drubbing. “At the end of the day, we’re competitors, and we’re competing, but 59-0 doesn’t seem like much of a competition.
“Football is an attitude, but it’s fair to say right now that this team doesn’t have the attitude it takes to win in this league. It’s fair to say, because it’s obvious. We lost 59-0 – 59-0 in a National Football League game. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that before in my life.”
It left the Titans still winless at 0-6 and now apparently hopeless after their third straight loss by at least 20 points.
“It sucks, man. You don’t want to be that person,” said running back LenDale White, whose fumble was one of five Titans turnovers. “You don’t want to be that team that looks like this out there on Sunday. You don’t want to be the team that’s getting embarrassed.”
And it could have been worse. The Patriots, who scored on nine consecutive possession, missed a field goal on their first drive, lost what might have been a safety on a generous officials’ marking late in the game, and sat record-setting quarterback Tom Brady and Randy Moss on the bench for most of the second half. New England did not score at all in the fourth quarter. In that 1976 game, the Rams scored 21 in the final quarter for their 59-point margin.
It was so bad that the previously unthinkable - Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff’s job security - might now be called into question.
“I’m gonna keep fighting. I’m gonna keep working,” Fisher said of any thoughts that after 15 seasons he could be in danger at 0-6 with a bye coming up. “The staff didn’t forget how to coach in the off-season. That doesn’t happen. You don’t forget how to coach overnight. What we have to do is find a way to win a ballgame.”
Asked if he was worried that owner Bud Adams might make a change, Fisher replied, “Again, I’m gonna keep fighting, as is the staff and as the players are. We’re just gonna keep working.”
Safety Chris Hope said he hoped nothing such as coaching moves would take place.
“That’s something out of my control,” Hope said. “You just would hate to be part of the reason someone gets fired or something happens with coaching staff changes. But that’s out of your control.
“I have total faith in the coaching staff. They’re the same coaches from last year. Coaches can only do so much. We have to go out and execute.”
Injuries to Cortland Finnegan, Nick Harper and Vincent Fuller forced the Titans to play Ryan Mouton, Jason McCourty and Cary Williams in the secondary, and not unexpectedly, Brady carved them up.
Brady completed 19 of his first 20 throws and had an NFL record five of his six TD throws in the second quarter as New England offense moved faster and with more fury than the falling snow that blanketed the field. In the first half, Brady was 24 of 28 for 345 yards to along with the five touchdown passes.
Brady finished his day in the third quarter, hitting 29 of 34 passes for 380 yards with six TDs. When it was over, New England had put up 619 yards total offense in the debacle, and set or tied franchise record and two NFL marks in the process.
The performance sent the Titans to new lows in a number of areas, not only in the game but in the 2009 season. The start to the ’09 season already represents the fourth-worst in franchise history, alongside an 0-7 beginning in 1973 and a pair of 0-10s to start both 1983 and 1984.
It adds up to a shell-shocked Titans team that is in uncharted territory at least during the Fisher regime.
“I’m very disappointed obviously and embarrassed to say the least,” Fisher said.
If you’re looking for highlights, there was one. Chris Johnson had probably the most meaningless 100-yard rushing day in NFL annals, hitting the century mark after the Titans were down 52-0 in the third quarter, on a 48-yard rush that put Tennessee at the New England 17.
But, a fourth-down play ruled a pass by Collins to Nate Washington on lost 22 yards and left Collins 2 of 12 for minus-7 total yards for game. In short, the folly of that play summed up the Titans’ ineptitude for the game and perhaps the season.
“We were a very confident football team last year,” Hope said. “It’s kind of hard to find confidence when you’re 0-5 or 0-6 and you can’t stop anyone or can’t get anything going on offense. It’s kind of hard to be a confident team.”