Think about all the preparation. All the film study. All the practices. All the meeting time.
Think about all of that, and now consider how an NFL game can be won or lost.
“We were running for about a yard and a half every time we tried, so I said, ‘To hell with it; we might as well try throwing it,’” Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said.
That logic of that notion became immediately apparent when wide receiver Kenny Britt caught an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. By game’s end the Titans scored 27 unanswered points, Britt had the NFL’s best receiving game, in terms of yards, of the season and Tennessee was 5-2 – alone in first place in the AFC South – following a 37-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday before a sellout crowd at LP Field.
The 27 points in the final 13:13 made it the highest scoring fourth quarter in franchise history and the third-highest scoring quarter overall. It featured a timely takeaway on special teams and an icing-on-the-cake interception return for a touchdown as time expired.
“Everything just started falling into place for us,” defensive tackle Jason Jones said. “Everybody was playing hard, making plays – turnovers, pressure on the quarterback, Kenny Britt stepping up. There was just a lot of things that happened in this game we can build off of.”
Britt scored a pair of touchdowns in the final period (he had three for the game) and finished with 225 yards on seven receptions. The rest of the team combined had just 51 receiving yards on 10 catches.
With seemingly everything for the offense headed his way, others had to find ways to get their hands on the ball.
Wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, for example, recovered a fumbled punt with 3:37 to go and set up Rob Bironas’ third field goal of the day, which made it 30-19. Moments later Cortland Finnegan came up with the fourth takeaway of the contest, an interception he returned 41 yards for the score.
It was the second straight week the Titans forced four turnovers.
“I know the Eagles are probably over there saying, ‘We had this and let it go,’” rookie cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “They can feel like that, ahead 19-10 going into the fourth quarter … but our playmakers just made plays.”
Perhaps the most important takeaway came with 5:51 to play in the third quarter. At that point the Eagles led 16-7 and had a first-and-goal at the 3. Jones blew up a would-be handoff and forced a fumble that Verner recovered at the bottom of a big pile.
“I had the best shot to get it,” Verner said. “Because I fell on it, I knew they were trying to rip it out from me. I was just holding on for dear life because I knew if I let this go that would be all bad. I was fortunate enough to have a little bit of strength to keep the ball in my hands.”
Up until that point it appeared the Eagles had a firm grip on the affair. They had scored points on four of their previous five possessions and had only one three-and-out for the contest. Their edge in time of possession through the first three quarters was 15:16 (27:38-12:22).
They came back after the fumble and got a field goal 1:34 into the fourth. After that Philadelphia’s offense was limited to a net of minus-6 yards and zero first downs in four series’.
“(The fumble) comes from communication in our huddle,” Eagles’ quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “It’s nobody’s fault and it’s everybody’s fault. You cannot do that. Obviously, that was a turning point in the ballgame. They got momentum back.”
Not long after the Titans’ offense got untracked.
They racked up 184 of their 328 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, and 161 of those were through the air as quarterback Kerry Collins exploited halftime adjustments designed to provide him more time in the pocket.
“We said, basically, ‘Let’s just pick it up and throw it,’” coach Jeff Fisher said. “That’s a tough thing to do against (the Eagles) because of the pressure that they bring.
“I thought our offensive adjustments were good for the most part. We settled down, protected the quarterback and Kerry was able to step up and put balls up.”