Opportunistic Titans knock off 49ers

Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 10:15pm

SAN FRANCISCO — The Tennessee Titans have arrived at the 2009 season more than just fashionably late. But Sunday’s 34-27 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park showed that the Titans have indeed made their arrival this season.

For a team that started the year 0-6, a modest two-game winning streak might not look like much, but the Titans will take it.

“This is more what we’re about. … No one wanted our season to go this way, but that’s how it went. But there’s more football to play and we’re gonna play it all out,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said.

The victory also helped stifle the Titans’ misery on the West Coast, as they won for just second time in 11 tries there under Jeff Fisher's tenure.

For two games now, the Titans have employed the formula that worked last year, getting pressure with four sacks and winning the turnover battle with four takeaways Sunday against 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.

Offensively, they ran the football with Chris Johnson, who gained 135 yards with two touchdowns and again got mistake-free play at the quarterback position. Vince Young was solid for the second straight week, going 12 of 19 for 172 yards plus one rushing touchdown.

“We learned from our mistakes we were making early in the season and in order to turn this whole thing around, we had to start playing a more physical type of ball,” said receiver Justin Gage, who did his part with four catches for 97 yards, including a leaping 33-yard catch that set up the go-ahead touchdown that Johnson scored on fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 2.

Turnovers sparked the Titans throughout the game, as Tennessee turned four takeaways into 24 points.

Rod Hood’s second interception in the past two games got things rolling for the Titans. Hood’s pickoff came after Michael Griffin tipped a pass for Michael Crabtree up into the air. Hood raced 43 yards to the San Francisco 24.

“He made a great play. We were in a zone and Griff drove on it and made a great play, and I was able to capitalize on it,” Hood said.

It led to Young’s 7-yard touchdown run that tied gave Tennessee a brief 10-3 lead.

The 49ers responded, however, with a pair of touchdown drives of their own in the second quarter to take a 17-10 lead by halftime. The go-ahead score came when Jason Hill got free and a scrambling Smith found him in the end zone from 12 yards out with 20 seconds before intermission.

During the losing streak, such plays might have snowballed. But on Sunday, as they had against Jacksonville the previous week, the Titans showed the needed fortitude to not only fight back, but make the necessary plays to turn the game around.

That included a sack of Smith and forced fumble from Jacob Ford that was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but overturned on replay with the Titans getting a recovery from Keith Bulluck.

That miscue was cashed in as the tying touchdown as Johnson bulled in from a yard out to make the score 17-all.

Then, in the fourth quarter, the Titans had two interceptions that help put the game away.

The Titans took the lead, 24-20, on Johnson’s go-ahead score with 7:11 to play. On fourth-and-inches just outside the 1, the Titans opted for a curious call with Young running the option pitch to Johnson, who was nearly tackled at the 5. But somehow, Johnson sidestepped a tackler and squirted into the end zone.

For him, it was about making the play that was needed at the time, something that has become more contagious with the Titans in their reversal.

“I just had to make a play,” Johnson said. “I was thinking like Kobe Bryant or LeBron [James], they always make plays. I went in there and made a play.”

After that, it was Chris Hope’s turn, as he intercepted a Smith pass that led to Rob Bironas’ 28-yard field goal and a seven-point lead.

The clincher came when Cortland Finnegan took advantage of a ball tipped into the air by Vincent Fuller, and raced untouched 39 yards for Tennessee’s final touchdown and a 34-20 lead with 2:51 to go.

San Francisco got a consolation touchdown in the final minute from Hill, but when the Titans recovered the onside kick, Tennessee had its second win in as many weeks and a sense that the renewed confidence was not just a mirage.

“Winning kind of gives you a different attitude, but we didn’t have a poor attitude before. Guys are making plays and playing with confidence,” center Kevin Mawae said.

Coincidentally or not, the turnaround has come after Young was reinserted into the lineup at quarterback for Kerry Collins.

“We believe in each other, and the coaches have the confidence in us and our defense is making big plays,” Young said.



9 Comments on this post:

By: frank brown on 11/8/09 at 11:20

Does anyone know who the Titans play next?

By: house_of_pain on 11/9/09 at 5:10

Way to go, Titans!

By: TITAN1 on 11/9/09 at 5:51

Major props to the Titans! CJ is playing great! The Oline and D is clicking. The receivers are making plays. VY so far is proving that he is our QB of the present and the future. He is poised and playing with confidence and looks very comfortable. Keep up the good work!

By: blktenn on 11/9/09 at 7:36

WAY TO GO """"""VY""""""""""""" NO MISTAKES.......... IT'S NOT KERRY'S FAULT !!!!

The titans go 0-6 and Terry McCormick articles about it's not kerry fault are HEAD LINES.. The Titans win next 2 games with VY and Terry does not want to MENTION there success..... Does it HURT THAT MUCH ???

VY has a long way to go but he has improved and he is a winner......

By: titansfb on 11/9/09 at 8:21

Titans play Buffalo at home this Sunday!

By: wayneCaluger on 11/9/09 at 10:11

Yep it's the Bill's next week and based on the schedule there is a good chance the Titans could win 5 of their remaining 8 games. If all our DB's play up to the level of Hood we could beat AZ and the Chargers.

At this point we could end the season at 9-7 or perhaps 11-5, but to do that VY is going to use better judgment on 3rd and long. Dinger was brilliant in turning VY biggest negative, his inability to throw sharp deep and pin point passes into tight coverage due to his throwing mechanics (side arm--not beside the ear/overhand & body open rather than planting his throwing foot turning his body to get some zip on the ball).

The 49 DB's and safeties came up to cover the short passes allowing Gage to run past them a run under the ball. If Upcoming teams elect to keep someone back to come up to the ball that will open up short to mid passing lanes for VY, a range within his passing limitations.

While CJ and the O-line are doing a great job we may not be able to maintain the run against some of the better teams. Should CJ get injured or we need to run a 2 minute offense without a better passing threat we could be in real trouble. If we allow the Dolphins to get on top with their wildcat offense its very hard to make up ground with their ball control/run game offense. They almost beat NE this weekend and the Colts a few weeks back (their offense keep Manning off the field for 45 minutes--just over 14 minutes).

The point is, while doing better we are living by the run and CJ. Shut down CJ and we are in trouble. While there is little doubt VY gives us a new breath of air, to be a NFL contender today you have to have a very good passing game that includes a QB that can zip the ball into tight coverage, in or outside the pocket. The run game today keeps the defense honest . Case's in point are the undefeated Colts and Saints.

By: Titan9282 on 11/9/09 at 11:56

Great win this week!!!!! Good job all around. Lets start with the offense.
Vince- Played very well, again. He is showing good decision making out there. 12 of 19 for 172, 0TD, 0INT, 1 rushing TD. Very Well played. That is a 64% completion percentage. I have to admit, the 1st deep pass to Gage was a thing of beauty. he threw that perfectly. Chris- This kid is some kind of freak. he can turn the jets on at any point. 25 carries, 135 yards, 2TD against the 2nd best rushing defense in the NFL. GREAT JOB!!!!! 2000 yards, here we come!!!!!! Gage- Very good game. He finally has shown up the past 2 weeks. had 97 yards on the day, including 2 nice deep catches. very well played. Overall- Great Offensive game plan. The O-line deserves a huge amount of the credit. They protected Vince very well, and opened some nice holes for CJ. the receivers are continuing to catch everything that is thrown to them. NICE JOB!!!!!

Defense- Played fast out there. The D-line had another good week. 4 sacks, 4 Alex Smith turnovers (3INT, 1 fumble) McGrath was the unnoticed hero out there. Swarmed at the ball and made some good plays. I am glad to see the secondary play their old selves out there. Finnegan looks better and better, Hood looks like a steal, and the safeties do not look lost in the secondary. Great Plays!!!!!!!

Look, we are a long way away from 10-6, but it would not shock me if we did go 10-6. Look at the schedule. we have the Bills this week (the way he have prepared and played the past 2 weeks, this should be a W), the Texans, Cardinals, Colts, St. Louis, Miami, San Diego, Seattle. The only two games that really scare me are Colts, Chargers. But, if we work hard and stay focused, we could realistically go 8-8 or 9-7. and by the way he started, that is one heck of a turn around!!!! lets go Titans, do not let up now!!!!!!

By: Alphadog7 on 11/9/09 at 1:51

The Titans are playing inspired football now. It good to see people mostly not Collins bashing, because anyone can see the whole team has come around, the difference is not just at QB. Hope it keeps going!!!


By: wayneCaluger on 11/10/09 at 10:41

Oops, got my won-lost predictions reversed. At this point we could end the season at 9-7 or perhaps 11-5, but to do that VY is going to use better judgment on 3rd and long

I intended to say 7-9 or 5-11. The three I feel best about are the Bills, Rams and Seahawks. If we don't get behind there is a good chance we can beat the Dolphins and I hope we can beat the Texans this go around but it maybe tougher since it's in Houston. At the best 8-8 or 9-7 is about the best we can hope for.