Titans’ playoff hopes wounded in collapse

Monday, December 10, 2007 at 12:19am

’Tis the season of giving.

But with Sunday’s 23-17 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers, the Tennessee Titans just might have given away their playoff hopes.

To make matters worse, the Titans gave away a 14-point lead with 7:29 to play, as the Chargers rallied back with two late touchdowns in regulation, then won the game in extra time on LaDainian Tomlinson’s 16-yard touchdown, ironically, with 7:29 left in overtime.

“It’s rough. You go out there and play as hard as you can against a good team and not come out on top, it hurts,” defensive back Vincent Fuller said.

It hurts the Titans most in the AFC playoff chase. Tennessee fell to 7-6 with the loss, tied with the Buffalo Bills, and now a game behind Cleveland for the AFC’s final wild-card spot. Jacksonville, a winner over Carolina, is now 9-4 and disappearing over the horizon as far as the Titans are concerned in the wild-card race.

The Titans are in a position now where they likely will have to win their three remaining games, beginning next Sunday at Kansas City, in order to make the postseason.

“That is probably the case. There’s three games left, and we’re sitting here 7-6. I don’t think 9-7 or 8-8 is going to make it,” Fuller said.

The Titans have only themselves — and perhaps an inconclusive replay — to blame.

After leading just 3-0 at half, the Chargers tied the game on their first second half possession, turning a Vince Young interception by Erik Wilhelm into Nate Kaeding’s 20-yard field goal.

Shortly after that, the Titans took control of the game. A Nick Harper interception of Philip Rivers was returned 32 yards to the Chargers’ 19. From there, the Titans needed four plays to score, with Chris Brown going in from 7 yards away to put Tennessee ahead 10-3.

On their next offensive possession, the Titans moved 42 yards in seven plays with LenDale White, who finished with 113 yards rushing, going 7 yards up the middle for a touchdown and a 17-3 advantage.

Both the scoreboard and the stat sheet showed the Titans in control, as Tennessee had allowed the Chargers only 110 yards of total offense to that point.

That’s when the collapse began, as the Chargers piled up 231 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter and overtime, first getting a Rivers-to-Tomlinson 7-yard touchdown pass that moved them to within 17-10, then getting one final shot after a Titans third-down incompletion with 2:32 to play forced a punt.

“I was trying to win the ballgame,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of the decision to pass. “They had a timeout and the two-minute warning. I’m trying to win the ballgame when it’s third-and-four.”

The onus was then shifted to the defense to try and keep the Chargers at bay, and Tennessee was able to put San Diego in a desperate fourth-and-5 situation from its own 25. That’s when Rivers heaved a 19-yard pass to Chris Chambers, who made a diving grab that most of the Titans’ players insisted was not a catch, even though replays were inconclusive.

“We really think it wasn’t a catch, but that’s not up to us as players,” defensive tackle Tony Brown said. “We feel like they got away with one, but at the same time, they got it and they executed when they needed to.”

From there, the Chargers continued their game-tying march and scored when tight end Antonio Gates outfoxed rookie Michael Griffin, scoring on a 2-yard pass with nine seconds left in regulation.

“He ran a good route. He’s Gates. There nothing really that you can say,” Griffin said. “He just ran a good route, and I fell for his inside shake, and he ran a fade — touchdown.”

Fate wasn’t with the Titans either, as they lost the coin flip and put a tired defense back on the field to start overtime. Tennessee managed to force a punt, but the Chargers downed the ball at the 2, and a bottled-up Titans offense had no chance to get anything going.

“They get the ball on the 1, there’s not much they can do, and as a defense,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “If they get it out of there, that’s a bonus, because you play conservative because you’re in sudden death. It was already in my mind that we were going out there around the 45 or 50-yard line, not allowed to give up a first down.”

But the Titans not only gave up a first down, but eventually the winning touchdown to Tomlinson, who scooted 16 yards off left tackle to ice the Chargers’ comeback and break the Titans’ back.

Tennessee is now forced to pick up the pieces and go on the road at Kansas City.

“With [seven] minutes to go and we’re up by 14, and I’m now standing here talking to you about a loss,” Bulluck said. “With three games left, the only thing we’ve got to worry about is what we’re going to do in those next three. What happened today happened. It sucks, but we have three games left and we need to take care of business.”

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By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

We only have to win one of the next three to get to our standard of 8 and 8. Of course if we do they will be a little behind over the last four years. I think an 8 and 8 season would give them 25 and 39 over the past four years....Who knows? we could win two of the last three? Vince Young is getting a little more "savvier" every game. Big Albert (the man many people wanted to run out of town on a rail) is a real gladiator. Go Titans!!!

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Frank, the only thing good about your post is Big Al, the rest is your usual sarcastic garbage. Now for the game, that was a tough one to take, up by 14 going into the 4th quarter and lose. We have a lot of work to do. But I am still looking forward to the Jet's game on the 23rd, big tailgate and all!

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The Titans gave away the game when they needed to win to maintain control of their own destiny. Now, they must win all three to regain a say in the playoffs. If they win only two of the three, then they must pray for a collapse by the Browns & no surge by the Bills (who, fortunately for the Titans, play each other next week).Prediction: Bills defeat Browns; Titans defeat Chiefs. Browns 8-6, Bills 8-6, Titans 8-6.

By: dgallent on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Typical Fisherball game but this time Fisher abandoned his little shell game and got beat. Hang this one on Fisher who is barely a .500 coach. What a totally inept team who is so poorly conditioned that they cannot play 4 quarters. In the OT, SD was much more alive than TN. VY looks like he is depressed and lost. We need san offense that can turn him loose. We are going to win only half our games anyway, why not have some fun????

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Fisher and Chow have done the impossible, they have taken VY from a QB who could improvise and make a play, a guy who enjoyed playing QB and have turned him into a QB that looks lost, indecisive and that looks like he hates to play QB.

By: Socrates on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What do you call a group of overpaid jockstraps that are playing in their home field and blow a 14 point lead with mere minuets remaining in the game?"Losers!" Yes, indeed. Once again, TitansRLOSERS proved they are Loaers playing on LOSERFIELD in LOSERVILLE, USA!HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA,HA!

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I would like to thank Sockman for once again raising the level of discussion.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

suckatee, I'm sure if you searched the internet, you could find a message board for DUMBA$$E$, you would be right at home.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Cowboy, Titan, why do you read anything Soc. writes? His remarks--stupid, bigoted, ignorant--are so easy to pass over & so worthy of passing over.What do you think of WEEK 14 (as the football guys say) & of the rest of the season?

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 6:00

OK, so I finally did a post.Late, and desultory. Just like this loss.Sue me...

By: rgolTN on 12/31/69 at 6:00

“I was trying to win the ballgame,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of the decision to pass. “They had a timeout and the two-minute warning. I’m trying to win the ballgame when it’s third-and-four.”----------This loss sits squarely on Fisher & Chow's shoulders. Coaching gets an "F." All season, VY has been in a funk. The rest of the league adjusted after last year, except for us. He does not scramble and looks like he does not know where his receivers are going to be.Fisher is so predictable. Run White for 2 left, Run White for 2 right and then VY pass. VY's second interception was such a waste. You think the LB had seen that pass before? During OT, it was so obvious what we were going to do. No guts, no glory! The Titans are average and will always be under Fisher. Look at the league's elite teams: Pats, Colts, Cowboys, Packers etc. They all pass down field and go after big plays.The Titans have $40 M in cap room next year. No other team in the league has more. Let's hop the Titans go out and get some good receivers and OL teammates to get the Offense in gear. Otherwise it will be 8-8, 9-7 etc. for the next 5 years.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

MJB, I think we win at KC and against the Jets, but lose at Indy. I think the only way we win at Indy is to going into the game knowing a win puts us in the playoffs, I don't think that will be the case.

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Well, there's a chance we win at Indy, if Peyton Manning is rested. And the rest of the Colt's starters as well. But, we always give Indy a great game. I think our opening game against Indy was the best effort this season; even with a loss, that game was probably the best played.I appreciate a loss, if that loss is well-played! This one, sucked. The lesson I hope someone learns is to not try to eat the clock, play for more points! Damn the clock-eaters...

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 6:00

There's a lot of Merriman hate going on, it seems. Merriman could have moved out of VY's way (he's a pro football player, and nimbleness is usually inherent) but he didn't even try to move. Vince could've had some severe injury.Now, there's complaints from Chargers fans that a Titans coach designed a hit on Merriman's knees. That's not factual. That could explain the Charger's energy and momentum in the 4th Quarter, though...much of any game goes on in player's heads, and a rumor like that really gets players going.

By: Socrates on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Professional sports is not about discussion, or how well the game was played (unless you are a LOSER. The only matrix that matters is WINNING! And, the only win that matters is the CHAMPIONSHIP!Based on you LOSERS whinning it appears that you ARE LOSERS because you are more afraid of my biting, but accurate comments than losing. Personally, I do not understand how you LOSERS can find the time to sit on your asses all day long engaging in LOSER MENTAL MASTURBATION, but I suppose that is why you are comfortable being LOSERS. As for you, MJB. It does not matter to me if you read my post. What matters is that you LOSERS know that I will not go away until you LOSERS in LOSERVILLE decide to demand winning as your lifestyle. "Winning isn't everything; It is the only thing" Coach Vince Lombardi

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Funny stuff, but they really should have an age requirement for posting.

By: OneTimer on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Agreed.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

MJB, I think that this team runs an almost caveman offense, the same one we saw at Vandy in the DiNardo and Widenhofer days. I don't know if this is Fisher's fault or Chow's but it has proven itself to not be a championship O. They don't score enough points and they do not put pressure on a defense, this O does not worry a good defense. They have zero playmakers, the only one might be Christy Brown, if he's healthy. Defenses know the Titans are going to score about 20 points. The Titans D has had to carry the team because the O is so predictable and conservative, they not only have to make all the plays, it seems they are on the field an awful lot.serr8, the Titans coach they are talking about is Fisher, with all the extra stuff going on yesterday, it's easy to believe that the coaches "encouraged" the players to prove who was the more physical team.

By: Socrates on 12/31/69 at 6:00

LOSERS, such as you, come in all ages, and apparently, you're a life long LOSER.

By: JohnGalt on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Until recently I have thought Jeff Fisher's long tenure as Titan's coach was a benefit.Now I'm not so sure.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 6:00

rgoITN, Cowboy84 -you guys have your finger squarely on the problem. It doesn't matter who the O.Coordinator is, or who the athletes on the field are, Fisher's offense has been the same for eleven years. Run off tackle on first down for one yard, again on second down for a couple more, throw underneath on third, punt. His play calling yesterday was incomprehensible, as I counted at least four times during the game on third and less than two yards, he tried to pass instead of running, all with no success. When you can't consistently drive the ball, your defense is GOING to be worn out in the fourth quarter. They played unbelieveably, and I put no blame on them. The last possession in OT was so ridiculous that Deirdork even blasted the sequence on national TV for being hopelessly predictable. That may be the status quo early in a game in that situation, not when your defense is spent, the opponents offense is clicking, and all they need is 15 yards after the punt for a winning FG. After they got up two scores in the fourth quarter, they were instructed to go into the usual soft zone, cover two, "give away the game mode" as they are COACHED to do every time they get ANY lead, and the offense, if dynamic early (as it was in the game where they were up 32-7 and barely won)goes back to that "caveman" mode one of you spoke of. I'm sure he gave his usual "try to keep the game close and find a way to win in the end" speech to the players before the game. The defense laid it all on the line yesterday, and played way too hard for their coach to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as he so often does, and I fear it will have implications lasting far into the future of this team. It is time for Nashville (and Bud) to recognize that this team, as beloved as the players are of Fisher, has always been an average team at best, and will never "take the next step" until a change is made at the top. Maybe he is the greatest guy to play for in the history of football, but that will never have them playing in February. One more thing - what was up with the crowd booing Volek? He was always popular here, waited patiently for his chance to start, then when that promise was finally made, Fisher brought in Collins for "competition" for whatever reason, and Volek was justifiably upset. That wasn't as bad as when they booed Lorenzo Neal when he was hoping off the field with a broken leg. He had some great years here and is a class act. The crowd was anything but.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

According to the Sporting News, Norm Chow is interviewing for the UCLA job. If he gets the job I'm not sure the Titans offense will change much.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This was not Fisher's fault. VY did not play well, it is that simple. We could not move the ball in the 4th quarter by running or passing. As for overtime, the chargers got lucky and won the toss, we stopped them, but they got a good punt downed at the two. We did the right thing by just trying to run it. You don't want a turnover there. Those who criticize Fisher, don't realize that if all of a sudden became available, there would be teams firing their coach to hire him. BTW, it should have never gone to overtime, that was not a catch. We would have taken over and taken a kneel.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Fisher is getting too much of the blame, but, at the same time, he should let Vince Young run more. That sets up the passing game. Yes, Young's passing is erratic, but he's not going to get better by handing off the ball. Also, Fisher should call more plays going for broke. Playing too cautiously is playing for the tie.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 6:00

] Titan1, do you seriously think VY called an audible on those four 3rd & less than 2yd plays during regulation? You want to tell me that ain't bad coaching? As for the sequence at our own goal line, sounds like you took a quote straight from Fisher's mouth - "you don't want a turnover there" - what the heck is punting the ball from the back of your own endzone in OT? A TURNOVER! They only have to pick up 15yds with an offense that is clicking, HAS L.T., has four downs to get it, and is playing a defense that is completely gassed. That kind of careful, conservative thinking is exactly what is wrong with this franchise. I think that belief that teams would be buying out their coaches' contract and fighting over signing Fisher is a local legend. Why in the heck would everyone be so hell bent on bringing in a guy that has proven over the course of time to a .500 coach? As for the Chargers' getting lucky, they did get lucky on the toss. They also got lucky on the punt. They also got lucky on a few third down plays in regulation, one where LaBoy had Rivers in his grasp and he stilll threw a touchdown to LT. They had every single break and bounce they needed to win, right down to the punt bounce. All that doesn't matter. When you go up by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, you don't lose that game. Period. No excuse. That is the painful truth about Fisher's conservative philosophy on both sides of the ball. It didn't just happen Sunday, it's happened all year long. It's happened for eleven years. Think about it. When was the last time we had an offensive gameplan that really attacked? When Volek came in for an injured McNair. Wasn't that the same receivers Fisher kept blaming for not getting open? Billy exposed Fisher's lie, & didn't obey his "keep it close and find a way to win