Titans make big returns pay off in victory over Jaguars

Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 5:22pm

Just when it appeared things might get out of hand, one of the Tennessee Titans finally put his hands to good use.

In so doing, linebacker Zach Brown set a trend that quickly caught on. Brown and return specialist Darius Reynaud combined for four touchdowns on returns as the Titans ended the 2012 season with a 38-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

Brown took back a pair of interceptions and Reynaud scored twice on punt returns as Tennessee (6-10) turned a 14-7 deficit into a 35-14 lead in a span of 4:45 in which the offense never left the sideline. It was the first time in NFL history a team scored four consecutive touchdowns on returns.

“You could see the sideline just explode and the momentum shift,” Brown said of his first interception. “It was the domino effect. Everybody just started playing and started making plays and doing their job.”

The second-round draft pick out of North Carolina, was one of a handful of Titans who missed opportunities to make plays in the first 15 minutes.

He, fellow linebacker Akeem Ayers and cornerback Jason McCourty all failed to come up with interceptions despite the fact that they had both hands on the ball. Even worse, wide receiver Nate Washington dropped a well-thrown deep ball on Tennessee’s second offensive possession and Kenny Britt added one of his own.

“We knew [Jaguars quarterback] Chad Henne was giving us opportunities and that we had to take advantage of them,” McCourty said. “We got to the sideline and I told the [defensive] line it was on us in the back end and we had to make some plays. When we did that, we were able to get a good lead and hold on to it.”

Jacksonville led by seven and had the ball at the Titans’ 21 when Brown stepped in front of Marcedes Lewis, actually held on to the ball and raced untouched 79 yards for a game-tying score with 1:48 to play in the first half.

Reynaud then went 69 yards with a punt in the final minute of the half and followed with an 81-yard punt return two minutes in the second half. Two plays later, Brown caught a ball tipped by Tommie Campbell and ran it back 30 yards for another score.

“When you start making plays it’s contagious,” coach Mike Munchak said. “You make one and you feel you can make another and another. Just like when you don’t make them, and it seemed like that’s how this game started — that we were going to miss out on opportunities. … We didn’t let that get us down. We came back and took advantage of the opportunities as they came right before halftime and never looked back.”

Reynaud became the first player in franchise history with two punt returns for scores in a single game, and Brown became the franchise’s first player since Ken Houston, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, in 1971 to score twice on interception returns in the same game.

Jacksonville (2-14) finally got into the act with 2:16 to play when Mike Harris blocked a punt and returned it 19 yards for the game’s final points. By that time, though, the outcome was assured.

“I am not sure how that one got out of control like it did, but it did,” Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey said. “Big point swing when we were down there getting ready to put points on the board prior to half. It’s one thing to throw an interception, but to throw an interception for a touchdown that a huge point swing and a huge momentum changer. … We felt we were in control of that thing right up to that [first] interception.”

The rash of returns skewed the final statistics. Tennessee finished with just 221 total yards to Jacksonville’s 375, and time of possession favored the Jaguars by nearly five full minutes.

However, it’s not as if the numbers looked good before that. At the time of Brown’s first interception, the Jaguars had outgained the Titans 226-102, had a 12-5 edge in first downs and maintained possession for 17:22 of the first 28 minutes. Then again, if not for a couple of drops those numbers could have looked a lot different — and a lot like the final score.

Briefly

With the 20 points allowed, Tennessee set a franchise record with 471 on the season. The previous mark was 460 points allowed in 1983, when then-Houston Oilers went 2-14. … The Titans finished the season 4-4 at LP Field, which made this the sixth time in seven seasons they went .500 or better at home. The lone exception was 2010, when they were 3-5. … With the victory Tennessee avoided going winless in the AFC South for the first time. Since the division was created in 2002, the Titans have gone 1-5 twice, including this season, 2-4 three times, 3-3 once, 4-2 four times and 6-0 once.

8 Comments on this post:

By: sonny1024 on 12/31/12 at 6:42

The TITANS are acting like they won a football game by beating a team that is just a bit worse then they are I wouldn't call it a win more like somebody had to lose.

By: thud241 on 12/31/12 at 8:53

The problems are far from over for the Titan offense. in spite of having been declared the victor in a 38-20 outcome, the sputtering offense, in another dismal showing, only accounted for 10 of the points. Not taking anything away from the outstanding performances of Brown and Reynaud, there is little to show that play making is contagious as declared by Coach Mike Munchak.,

Again, I am no expert, but I, along with the Titan fans, recognize chronically dismal performances. Maybe next year we will see some progress in the "rebuilding" to which we have become accustomed.

I hear that Andy Reid is looking for a job.

By: JohnGalt on 12/31/12 at 10:26

Obviously Henne was obsessed with giving the game to the Titans. Why else would he keep throwing to them even after they refused his first three deliveries?

By: junglejim on 12/31/12 at 11:50

junglejim70 these little crybabies could be beaten by any jr. high football team.
They are all losers. They get the big money contracts signed and then they lay down on the job. I say clean house from the top down and start over. Bud Adams needs to get out of his lounge chair and get some new coaches to. The titans are a bunch of wusses....

By: Jughead on 12/31/12 at 1:16

Lord, another year of Munchak. Dump your PSL's now!

By: Jughead on 12/31/12 at 1:17

Why anyone pay a cent to Bud Adams amazes me. Terrible product, year in and year out.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/12 at 2:02

Six wins exceeded the talent level put on the field. Two wins relied heavily on special teams, trick plays and defense (Lions and Jaguars). Two wins were worthy performances (Steelers and Dolphins). Two other victories were horrible teams in putrid games (Bills and Jets). Indianapolis raced past the Titans in talent and player development, Folks, these Titans are bad. Six wins would be a top expectation for next year.

Nice win yesterday, but relying on returns, interceptions against is truly inferior team shows flaws in the offense.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/12 at 2:09

typo: replace "is" with "a" in final sentence. Apologies.