McCourty makes his mark with timely takeaways for Titans defense

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 9:43pm

With every takeaway he creates, Jason McCourty seems to give the Tennessee Titans a better chance at victory.

The latest example was last Sunday when he forced running back Reggie Bush to fumble on Miami’s second possession. That led to the Titans’ first touchdown four plays later and sent them on their way to a 37-3 victory.

“When McCourty pulled out that ball on Bush, and we got the ball at the 22-yard line, that was a huge play,” coach Mike Munchak said Monday. “The fact that we turned around and got seven points on them was big. It went our way [Sunday], and guys made plays. It was fun to watch.”

Generally speaking, the Titans have not forced nearly enough turnovers through the first 10 games. Bush’s fumble was just the fourth by an opponent this season recovered by the Tennessee defense — only five teams have come up with fewer. With nine interceptions, that unit barely ranks in the top half of the league.

Even with a plus-4 against the Dolphins, the Titans are still minus-3 in turnover ratio for the season.

“That’s usually the one stat that holds true most times, especially when it’s a big number like ours was two weeks ago [in a loss to Chicago] and how Miami’s was [Sunday],” Munchak said. “… That’s something that you’re always trying to avoid. Three of the last four games we didn’t have a turnover.

“… We’ll say we never have enough [takeaways], we need more. … They’ve been hard to come by for us, and we’ve been giving up the ball too much on offense at times.”

The basic numbers, however, do not necessarily measure the impact of such moments with regard to the timing and result of the takeaway. If there was a way to do that, McCourty’s two interceptions and one fumble recovery this season would look much more impressive.

It was his fourth-quarter interception at Buffalo that led to Nate Washington’s game-winning touchdown catch with 1:03 to play in a 35-34 victory over Buffalo.

The week before against Pittsburgh, his first pick of the season came in the final two minutes of the first half after the Steelers had gotten within field goal range. Instead, the Titans kicked a field goal on the final play of the half and eventually won by three.

That is a significant, game-changing play in three of Tennessee’s four victories this season from a single player, one who was voted a captain for the first time prior to the season. That decision looks even more wise now given that arguably no one has gotten the team turned in the right direction as effectively.

“He’s made some big plays, [McCourty] has,” Munchak said. “He made a great play in the end zone on a ball too [at Miami]. He’s just had a good, solid year. He has been a guy that in Buffalo and Pittsburgh and this game, has come up and made plays for us.”