AFC South: Alterraun Verner

Alterraun Verner made a graceful exit from Tennessee as he signed a four-year, $25.5 million free-agent deal with Tampa Bay.

He appeared on The Midday 180 in Nashville as our guest Friday largely to say thanks to Titans fans.

Verner said he expected some heat for leaving, but that the Titans' fanbase has been largely congratulatory.

[+] EnlargeAlterraun Verner
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsAlterraun Verner was the Titans' lone Pro Bowl selection last season.
He was polite, professional and not angry, but also said the Titans didn’t always make him feel loved and appreciated. In free agency, feeling loved is crucial.

You can hear the interview I’m about to quote from here.

I’m fine with the Titans' ultimate plan to allow Coty Sensabaugh or Blidi Wreh-Wilson to win the open starting spot, just as Verner won it when Cortland Finnegan left. I know Tennessee was the victim of its own accurate pricing -- if the Titans offered a deal at the end of last season averaging $6.5 million a year, Verner’s agent would have scoffed. Yet that’s what he ultimately got from the Buccaneers.

“That’s why I said the money really isn't the issue because in some sense, Tennessee kind of [ultimately] offered something around where I'm at now,” Verner said. “It's not really the money that was the issue. It's kind of rooted a little bit deeper than that. So maybe if they would have did this offer before the season started or maybe during the season, maybe I would have did it, but once the season ended, it was going to take a little bit more -- not necessarily money -- but just different ways of approaching the whole situation, they would have had to do a little different for me to probably come back and consider coming back."

So did the Titans undervalue him in non-financial ways?

"In answering that question, I think it's very tough because there's a lot of changeover, new coaches and everything like that,” he said. “At times, I felt that I could have been undervalued or maybe not appreciated enough. You know, I don't need to get slaps on the back or pampered or anything like that. I've never been that type of person or player to really want that. But at times I felt like I'm being demeaned or being put under when I felt like I'm being a professional, I'm doing everything right.

“I practice, I play every game -- hurt or not hurt -- I don't really complain and I'm a team player. But at certain points I feel like I gained, or should have earned, more respect at certain areas. It would take too long to go real deep into it or anything like that. It's not like I'm saying that the front office or coaches or anybody is bad or treated me mean or anything, there's just certain things that they could have did a little bit different or that they did do that wasn't the most ideal or most respectful way of doing things."

Here’s some leftover ill effects from the poor job Jerry Gray did as the Titans' defensive coordinator for the past three years. In both 2012 and 2013, Gray pushed hard for the bigger, faster Tommie Campbell to win the job opposite Jason McCourty.

Verner consistently outplayed Campbell. Everyone should have to compete for his job, of course. But the way Gray propped up Campbell was a joke, and I imagine Verner resented it to some degree.

Surely that at least played a part of what he’s referring to when he says there were times he felt “demeaned” or “put under.”

He’s landed in a good spot. Like virtually everyone else who follows the team, I wish him well and expect big things.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Alterraun Verner is a smart guy and a high-quality football player. He is going to hit the jackpot in free agency, maybe as soon as late afternoon on Tuesday.

In an interview with Mad Dog Radio on Monday, Verner talked about his financial expectations.

Here is what Verner said via Chris Wesseling of

"I would feel more obliged to go to a team that paid me $6 [million] or $7 [million] and made me one of the highest-paid players on the team than go to a team that paid me $8 [million] or $9 million and I wasn't one of the highest-paid players on the team."

I’m confused by that.

He’d rather go to a team with fewer high-paid people? Why does that context matter, and how would it help ensure a good situation for Verner? It’s hard for me to understand what Verner is getting at there.

In 2012, the Tennessee Titans signed their other starting cornerback, Jason McCourty, to a five-year deal worth $43 million with $20 million guaranteed.

Here are the top Titans in terms of average per year of current contracts:

Chris Johnson, $13.493 million
Jason McCourty, $8.6 million
Andy Levitre, $7.8 million
Michael Roos, $7.166 million
Michael Griffin, $7 million
Kamerion Wimbley, $7 million
David Stewart, $6.147 million

Johnson and Stewart are expected to be cut, and Wimbley might have to trim his salary to stay.

So Verner said $6 million or $7 million (presumably he’s talking average) would be acceptable if he was one of the highest-paid players on the team.

Brent Grimes just received $8 million a year from Miami, and Sam Shields $9.75 a year from Green Bay.

Let’s hypothetically make Verner a last-minute offer from the Titans: five years, $35 million. That $7 million average would mean he’d be tied for the fourth-highest-paid player on the team.

It would fit his criteria.

I don't know that the Titans would make that offer, but if they did, I think he’d say no to that in second, and he’s going to do far better than that. And good for him.

It seems to me he got a little knotted up in that attempted framing of what he’s looking for.

Top free-agent roundup: AFC South

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
With the 2014 free-agency period starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, here is a look at top free agents in the AFC South as compiled by reporters Tania Ganguli, Paul Kuharsky, Michael DiRocco and Mike Wells. The top seven free agents are on defense, led by cornerback Vontae Davis of the Colts. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, a fixture in Jacksonville for the past eight years, is looking for a new team. Is this the end of Antoine Bethea's run in Indianapolis?

1. Vontae Davis, Colts CB: Indianapolis needs a top cornerback to help a defense that finished 20th in the league last season. Davis has shown he has the talent to be one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He just needs to work on his consistency.

2. Alterraun Verner, Titans CB: A smart, aware corner with a knack for getting to the ball, he just lacks top speed and size.

3. Antoine Bethea, Colts S: A reliable player, having started every game he played during his eight years with the Colts. Finished with at least 100 tackles in five of those seasons.

4. Earl Mitchell, Texans NT: Solid player at the point of attack and has shown the ability to get consistent penetration. He had 48 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season.

5. Bernard Pollard, Titans S: Played well as an in-the-box safety and provided the sort of standard-setting leadership the Titans lacked previously. Update: Signed one-year, $2 million deal to remain with Titans.

6. Darryl Sharpton, Texans LB: Led the Texans with 87 tackles but is not as good in coverage as he is against the run.

7. Antonio Smith, Texans DE: He is more of a run-stuffing defensive end than a pass-rusher, although he did record five sacks in 2013.

8. Ben Tate, Texans RB: He led the Texans with 771 yards rushing. He has been somewhat injury-prone but has produced when needed as Arian Foster's backup.

9. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars RB: Jones-Drew started 15 games and led the Jaguars with 803 yards and five touchdowns rushing. He also caught 43 passes (third on the team) for 314 yards. He got off to a slow start then battled through ankle, hamstring and knee issues and averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry.

10. Donald Brown, Colts RB:
Brown was the Colts’ third running back twice in 2013 only to end the season as the starter. He has the speed but was too inconsistent during his five seasons in Indianapolis.

11. Garrett Graham, Texans TE: He’s not Owen Daniels, but he can line up tight or as a flex tight end. He came into his own as a receiver last season with 49 catches for 545 yards and five TDs.

12. Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts RB: A neck injury limited Bradshaw to only three games last season. It took just those three games for him to show he was the Colts' most effective running back.

13. Ropati Pitoitua, Titans DE: A giant, run-stuffing end who would be a solid, flexible piece in the hybrid front. Update: Signed 3-year, deal for $9.6 million to remain with Titans.

14. Adam Vinatieri, Colts K: The 41-year-old Vinatieri was 35-of-40 on field goals and a perfect 34-of-34 on extra points in 2013.

15. Samson Satele, Colts C: Was released by the team on March 6 after a disappointing 2013 season. He has started 98 of 102 games during his seven-year career.

Free-agency primer: Titans

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7

» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: CB Alterraun Verner, DE Ropati Pitoitua, KR Leon Washington, WR Damian Williams, DT Antonio Johnson, WR Kenny Britt.

Where they stand: The Titans re-signed outspoken, thumping strong safety Bernard Pollard, one of their most important free agents, with a two-year deal. He has spoken glowingly about the direction the team will head under coach Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Ray Horton. "We're going to be 11 dogs without leashes running around biting people," Pollard told a Nashville radio station 3HL. They also re-signed third-string running back Jackie Battle, who’s a staple special-teamer. It’s hard to know how other people project into the new systems that come along with a new coaching regime. The Titans have indicated to everyone on that list, beside Britt, that they are interested. But will the interest translate into new contracts?

What to expect: The Titans will wind up with a couple of their own guys back, though they are not desperate to keep anyone on the list. Verner is very likely to hit the market and find a team that puts a higher price tag on him than the Titans will. I believe Pitoitua can be a valuable piece of the new hybrid front, particularly in the run-stopping effort. Washington can bring a secure feeling to the return game. Williams is a smart and versatile fourth wide receiver, but there is a giant pool of free-agent wideouts and a quality draft class, so he'll need to settle for minimal money if he wants to stay and they want to have him. The team won't spend $100 million in free agency, as it did last year, but will make several key additions.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bill Polian had great success as general manager of the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts.

Now as an ESPN analyst, working with a scouting team of Gary Horton, Matt Williamson and Field Yates, Polian has rated players about to be free agents just like he would have as a team executive.

They have produced this board Insider.

The Tennessee Titans' top free agent, cornerback Alterraun Verner, gets a B-minus grade.

The group rates him as elite in production and neutral in speed, injury and character. I think Verner should rate as elite in character.

The full write-up:
Verner may not have top-end size or speed, but he is an excellent starting-level cornerback who plays with terrific toughness and a willingness to be physical. He has the strength and balance to be physical at or near the line of scrimmage without losing his feet with very good ball skills and on-ball production and an understanding of opposing route concepts. He lacks the elite short-area quickness and burst to match up against slot receivers but can ably handle perimeter cornerback duties. He is good at the point of catch, playing his technique through the catch and disrupting receivers. At age 25 and playing a premium position, he could cash in on the open market above this grade level.

A "B" grade translates in Polian’s eyes to $2 to $6 million in annual average value with two years or fewer of guaranteed money.

Only Tarell Brown of the 49ers, Terry Porter of the Raiders and Aqib Talib of the Patriots have higher grades among cornerbacks.

They are all "Bs".

A look at free-agent cornerbacks

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s no secret that the Indianapolis Colts want to re-sign cornerback Vontae Davis. Davis talked about it at the end of the season and general manager Ryan Grigson referenced him during his season-ending news conference. Using the franchise tag on Davis is unlikely since the tag number is expected to be around $11 million.

The salary cap has yet to be set, but the Colts will have the fourth-most money in the NFL to spend once free agency starts March 11. As it’s been noted before, though, do not expect the Colts to spend just because they have the money to do so. They know that's not a wise decision.

Davis won’t be the only cornerback hitting the free-agent market.

Here’s a look at how Davis’ stats stack up against some of the other free-agent cornerbacks:

Some of these names could be removed from this list if their teams decide to use the franchise tag on them by next week.

Although he was inconsistent at times last season, Davis and the Colts appear to be on the same page as far as re-signing goes. Davis referred to the organization as a family at the end of the season. Davis, a former first-round pick, has the talent to become one of the top cornerbacks in the league.

Franchise/transition tags: Titans

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As good as Alterraun Verner was in 2013, it’s hard to imagine the Titans would view him as being worth the salary that will be tied to the franchise or transition tags for a cornerback.

Monday is the start of the window during which the teams can apply tags to pending free agents. Each team can use only one.

Verner had a cap number of $1.454 million in 2013, the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

Last year, the franchise-tag number for cornerbacks was $10.854 million, and the transition tag was $9.095 million.

A franchise tag means the player gets that salary guaranteed for one season. If another team signs him to an offer sheet and his current team doesn’t match it, his original team gets two first-round picks as compensation. That’s an exorbitant price.

A transition tag means the player gets that salary guaranteed for one season. If another team signs him to an offer sheet and his current team doesn’t match it, there is no compensation involved.

Verner was very productive in 2013, with five interceptions -- including one returned for a touchdown -- as well as 26 passes defensed and the eighth-most tackles on the team (73).

He’s got a knack for the ball and a great feel for where it will be heading, but he doesn’t have the speed or the size (he’s 5-foot-10, 186 pounds) teams expect from a top cornerback who’s getting top price.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean recently reported there has been minimal movement between Verner and the Titans. The two sides are expected to talk at the scouting combine in Indianapolis later this week.

I think the Titans value Verner and will make a fair offer.

But come March 11 and the start of free agency, I expect at least one other team will value him more and the Titans will be turning to Coty Sensabaugh or Blidi Wreh-Wilson as their No. 2 cornerback.
A legitimate argument could be made that the AFC South was the weakest division in the NFL this season after the Houston Texans fell flat on their face by going 2-14 despite having some of league’s most talented players. I personally thought it was the worst division in the league this season.

The Indianapolis Colts took advantage of the opportunity to go a perfect 6-0 in the division during their 11-5 season.

Per Pro Football Focus’ All-AFC South Team, the Colts had seven of the best 26 players in the division on offense and defense.

Quarterback Andrew Luck, receiver T.Y. Hilton, and linebackers Robert Mathis and Jerrell Freeman, were easy picks to make the team. Cornerback Vontae Davis, guard Gosdar Cherilus, and special teams standout Kavell Conner also made the team.

Here are some tidbits on what writer Khaled Elsayed said about each Colt named to the team:

On Luck: “2013 was a step forward for Luck in a year where the rest of the AFC South was left with some serious questions at the quarterback spot. He’s still far too streaky and the team would like for him to take less time to get going (part of making a comeback is falling behind after all), but he’s a real playmaker at the QB spot who overcame an, at times, non-existent ground game and the loss of his favorite weapon.”

On Hilton: “On the outside the speedy Hilton had the eighth-most deep catches as he showed himself to be a field-stretcher.”

On Mathis: “Colts’ outside linebacker Robert Mathis no longer lives in the shadow of Dwight Freeney. He’s not the most consistent getter of pressure, but no pass-rusher creates turnovers like he does.”

On Freeman: “A trio that doesn’t exactly excite. Freeman made his share of plays.”

On Davis: “One of the more stacked positions in the division with Alan Ball and Jason McCourty both having cases to make this team. As is, Davis was the first choice with some big games leading the way.”

On Cherilus: “Cherilus was definitely an upgrade for the Colts, if not completely worth the money.”

On Conner: “Only Darrell Stuckey could match his grade for work on kickoffs. Tackle numbers aren’t everything with how he operates.” ran its All-AFC South team this month.

The Colts had six players on that team, which didn’t have a special teamer. Colts tight end Coby Fleener made the team, and Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner and McCourty were the two cornerbacks selected.

All-AFC South: Tennessee Titans

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans account for seven of 23 spots on offense and defense in’s All-AFC South Team for 2013.

The team was pieced together by a vote of the four writers who cover the division. That’s Mike Wells on the Indianapolis Colts, Tania Ganguli on the Houston Texans, Mike DiRocco on the Jacksonville Jaguars and me on the Titans.

Receiver Kendall Wright, running back Chris Johnson and right guard Chance Warmack are on the All-AFC South offense.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty and strong safety Bernard Pollard are on the 12-man defense; the extra spot helped us meld 4-3 and 3-4 defenses.

I didn’t vote for Warmack, as I thought he was too inconsistent. I would have preferred we left a guard slot, or even both guard slots, blank. Offensive line play in the division was generally poor.

I don’t like having two running backs on the team. No one uses enough fullback to warrant one here, but that doesn't mean we should have a second tailback. I pushed for three wide receivers instead, but was overruled by the editor overseeing the project and putting together the balloting.

Receiver T.Y. Hilton of the Colts is a huge omission here, and he’d be on my team ahead of Ben Tate or Johnson. If not three-wide we should have gone two-tight. But even with one tight end, I voted Delanie Walker ahead of Coby Fleener.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner is allowing room for sentiment on Sunday.

As he takes the field for the Tennessee Titans against the Houston Texans, it will creep into his head that it could be the last time.

Verner has a great feel for the game and a knack for being around the ball and breaking things up.

“Definitely that thought has occurred to me, but it’s not overriding where I am letting that emotionally distress me or get me away from the game,” Verner said. "It’s definitely crossed my mind that this could be [it]. Could be.”

[+] EnlargeTennessee Titans' Alterraun Verner
AP Photo/Patric SchneiderThe price tag looks to be high for defensive backs Alterraun Verner, No. 20, and Bernard Pollard, both free agents at season's end.
He’s timed things up well. After such a solid season, his price may be at an all-time high. I’m sure the Titans would like to keep him. But they’ve spent two recent offseasons trying to give his job away to Tommie Campbell and clearly see Verner's speed as a deficiency in an otherwise solid game.

Future: They should certainly try to keep him. But at this stage, there is no reason for him not to wait for free agency and check out the market. And I’ll bet a team that thinks it’s a corner away will offer him something bigger than the Titans will.

A look at other guys for whom Sunday could be The Last Time.

Running back Chris Johnson

We’ve written frequently about the cost-versus-production equation for Johnson, most recently here. St. Louis fifth-round pick Zac Stacy has a few more yards and a slightly bigger yards per carry average this season. Stacy made $581,500 in 2013. CJ made $10 million.

Future: It’s not working, as Johnson hasn’t been the playmaker he sold himself as when he got the big contract after three years. He won’t take less money – or sufficient responsibility, for that matter. They should move on.

Right tackle David Stewart

He broke his leg late in the 2012 season and has never returned to form, with all sorts of nagging injuries slowing him down this year. He’s questionable for this game with a shoulder injury. He’s been a tough, physical presence for the team for a long time. But he’s due $6.4 million in 2014.

Future: The Titans cannot pay him that much next year.

Strong safety Bernard Pollard

He’s delivered on what the Titans asked when they signed him for one year, providing attitude and toughness to go with solid play. They’ve used him smartly and if he’s not back they will have a hole that will be difficult to fill in both production and leadership.

Future: They should try to keep him, but it’s unclear what the market will offer. Surely there will be a multi-year deal to be had. Will the Titans offer one?

Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley

He’s not been a fit for the Titans, who grabbed him in 2011 after their failed pursuit of Peyton Manning. When they focused solely on him meant Mario Williams went to Buffalo. Even if there's a new staff and it wants to run a 3-4 that’s more suited to Wimbley, he’s not worth $6 million in 2014.

Future: It’s long been presumed he will be cut.

Wide receiver Damian Williams

He got benched for the Arizona game because of a violation of team rules, but such a slip was totally uncharacteristic. He’s a bright guy who can play every receiver spot. He’s ideal as a fourth with potential to be a solid third.

Future: They should re-sign him.

Wide receiver Kenny Britt

The last year of his initial contract has been a disaster during which he lost confidence and was unable to catch the ball consistently. He’ll likely be inactive again Sunday. In a new setting, perhaps he can recover. But he’ll get a minimum contract or something close to it, when a big season would have set him up as a free-agent prize.

Future: It’s elsewhere.

Quarterback Rusty Smith

He’s been the team’s developmental quarterback for four years, and he could never work his way to a place where the team wanted him to be the No. 2. He ended up in that spot only because of injury.

Future: If he’s not a No. 2 by now, it’s time to move on. Tyler Wilson was a late signing, and should take over the Smith spot as the developmental quarterback.

Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua

Started very strong but hasn’t been as good down the stretch. He gives the Titans good size in their run-down front and would benefit from better linebacker play.

Future: Worth keeping at the right price and contract length.

Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson

He’s a workmanlike run-down defender who’s a good piece as a role player.

Future: Shouldn’t be hard to keep.

Also with expiring contracts: Returner Leon Washington, returner Marc Mariani, running back Jackie Battle, wide receiver Kevin Walter, offensive tackle Mike Otto, interior offensive linemen Rob Turner and Chris Spencer.

Pro Bowl selections: Tennessee Titans

December, 27, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner is the team’s first Pro Bowl selection since 2010.

As of now, he’s going alone.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has had a Pro Bowl season too. He ranks as second alternate at his position and has a chance to be part of the game if someone ahead of him is injured or plays in the Super Bowl.

He lost out to Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens, Dontari Poe of the Kansas City Chiefs, Justin Smith of the San Francisco 49ers, Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions and Kyle Williams of the Buffalo Bills.

The cornerbacks in addition to Verner are Brandon Flowers of the Chiefs, Brent Grimes of the Miami Dolphins, Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns, Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals, Darrelle Revis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and Aqib Talib of the New England Patriots.

The Titans passed out quotes from Verner, who has just one game left in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

“It is a huge honor,” Verner said. “It is something that everybody in my family, we used to watch the game and admire the people that make it. So to know that I am going to be a part of it and that only a special group of people make this game is very exciting. It is a good cap-off to the season and I am excited to be able to represent the Titans.”

Verner said coach Mike Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster called him this afternoon with the news. The teams will be drafted by Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice instead of playing AFC versus NFC.

“I would like to say “thank you” to the fans and to Titans Nation that voted for me and tried to help me out,” Verner said. “I want to thank the coaches for allowing me to contribute the way I was able to contribute. Again to my teammates as well. This is not an individual sport at all. This wasn’t an ‘I’ award or an ‘I’ honor, I didn’t make this happen, everyone had a hand in it. I am appreciative, overwhelmed and very excited.”

Receiver Kendall Wright has been the Titans best offensive player. But he lost out to a group of qualified guys with bigger numbers. Of the eight, seven ranked higher in at least two of three categories -- catches, yards and touchdowns -- than Wright.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

Titans produce another second-half dud

December, 8, 2013
DENVER -- Three times this year, the Tennessee Titans have taken a surprising lead to the locker room at halftime.

Like they did in Seattle and against Indianapolis, the Titans blew Sunday's halftime lead over the Broncos with a poor second half, losing 51-28 after leading 21-20 at the half.

While the Colts are struggling, they have won the AFC South. Seattle and Denver are Super Bowl favorites.

The Titans have shown they can get out of the gate and play 30 good minutes against such teams. They have shown they can then fall apart.

Collective first halves: Titans 48, Opponents 33.

Collective second halves: Opponents 68, Titans 20.

It begs the question as to whether Titans coach Mike Munchak and his staff have done as well with halftime adjustments as Pete Carroll, Chuck Pagano and John Fox and their staffs have.

Of course it’s the trailing team that has to make the biggest alterations at intermission. Then the team that had the lead has to respond to those adjustments.

Three times the Titans have failed in a big way at that.

“No way in the world we came in this locker room expecting that second half to pan out like that,” receiver Nate Washington said of Denver’s 31-7 second half.

“As a player, I can’t worry about the adjustments being made or not,” defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. “All I can do is go out there and play football and rely on the coaching staff to make the adjustments they feel are necessary or not. Not looking at film, I don’t know what happened in that second half.”

Maybe I am gerrymandering to pick out these three games. But in a season where the Titans lost to Houston and Jacksonville they needed to find at least one game they were expected to lose and win it to offset the bad loss.

They had chances to do so at the halfway mark in Seattle, against the Colts and at Denver.

“I don’t know if it’s game-planning, I don’t know if they are finding ways to do things that we’re not,” cornerback Alterraun Verner. “At this rate with us being 5-8 you have to say we just haven’t been good enough.”
DENVER -- Bernard Pollard is hardly afraid to pop off. The Tennessee Titans strong safety is one of the NFL's most outspoken players. And he's got no issue raising the volume.

Sunday, after the Titans fell to 5-8 with a 51-28 loss to the Denver Broncos, he was reserved and resigned.

He didn't raise his voice and he didn't really talk in specifics. He merely spoke of the NFL as a higher power and pointed out the limits he felt that power put on the Titans as they tried to slow Peyton Manning.

[+] EnlargeBernard Pollard
AP Photo/Jack DempseyBernard Pollard was penalized twice in the loss to the Broncos.
"It's a shame the way, you know, power is held," he said. "It's hard for us to play the way we want to play. We understand what Peyton has done, we understand all of it, man. It's just difficult for us as a secondary, as a defense, to get things done."

Cornerback Alterraun Verner has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, but he got flagged three times in this game, once for pass interference and twice for defensive holding. One of the holding calls was wiped away because Denver had a bigger penalty to accept, a personal foul against Pollard who delivered a hard shot to receiver Eric Decker on an incomplete pass up the left side.

It was a hard hit, delivered with a shoulder to a shoulder. But referee Scott Green and his crew viewed it as a dangerous hit to a defenseless player and gave the Broncos 15 yards and helped fuel the drive that put Denver ahead for good.

"It was a foul in their eyes," Pollard said softly. "I hit a defenseless player."

I thought Verner was a little more handsy than usual and didn't have a big issues with the call on him. The call against Pollard was botched. It’s another call coach Mike Munchak should get an apology from the league for if he dials league headquarters on Monday. It's a phone call the coach doesn't like to make, but one that yielded three admissions of mistakes against Tennessee in the Titans' last loss.

Pollard also got an unsportsmanlike conduct for talking to an official. He said he told him "that play stinks," Green got involved and made the call.

Free safety Michael Griffin was out for last week's loss to the Colts -- suspended for an accumulation of four hits to defenseless receivers that the NFL judged illegal and fined him for.

He was not nearly as calm about the personal foul call against Pollard or the calls overall.

"What do I think about it? It was [expletive] clear as day," he said. "It was the same hit I had against [Doug] Baldwin from damn Seattle, hit him in the shoulder pad. The official said it was a defenseless receiver. I said that's bull----. He hit him in the [expletive] shoulder. Notice he didn't hold his head, he held his shoulder."

"I feel like they got game tape, they already look and say, ‘He just got suspended, the other guys has had some flags thrown on him also.' Anything close that even looks bad, these refs are throwing the flags quick."

Verner said he thought he was playing "good, tough coverage."

"But the Broncos found a rhythm and took off like a rocket," he said.

Bad calls didn't ultimately account for the 23-point gap in this game. Manning completed a Broncos' record 39 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns.

No, players cannot adjust their strike zone in a split second when their target is moving. They should be able to deliver a shoulder hit with a shoulder without being penalized. Other adjustments are possible, it's just the Titans seem unwilling or unable to make them.

The Titans have to be good enough and smart enough to realize how a game is being called and to adjust to it. And they simply aren't, whether it's holding calls in Oakland or pass interference/defensive holding calls in Denver.

Or when they play superior talent they have no choice but to make plays that are being regarded as fouls and accept the consequences.

They'll be accused by some of whining or crying. I think they are reasonably frustrated and, when considering the 5-8 record, not as talented as they believe.

"I think we need to have a referee meeting," Griffin said. "To me, it's not called consistent around the league. Some places it's called, some places it's not called. When you see the replay [of the Pollard play], everybody across America can see that it was shoulder to shoulder."

Late in the second quarter, a Broncos trainer put his hands on Pollard to move him when he knelt to pray for Wes Welker after the receiver suffered a concussion. Pollard didn't react well to being touched that way.

But after the game he wasn't talking about the higher power he asked to heal Welker.

"When you see certain things happen in the game, that's not how we played it all year, that's not how we wanted to play it," Pollard said. "But the higher power wants to play it like that."

Rapid Reaction: Tennessee Titans

December, 8, 2013

DENVER -- Rapid reaction from the Tennessee Titans' 51-28 loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High:

What it means: The Titans can’t have a winning season after dropping their eighth game of the season. At 5-8 they’ll have to win three in a row to avoid a losing season. Again the Titans played well for a segment of the game Sunday but showed an inability to maintain it and finish. Tennessee is hardly the only team to struggle against the Broncos. But the Titans had put themselves in position where they needed to pull an upset, and they could not. They've lost seven of their past nine.

Stock watch: Alterraun Verner has been excellent at cornerback this season, but against Peyton Manning and a quality stable of receivers, Verner got called for three penalties. One was declined. It was far from his best day in coverage.

Gutsy call: I really liked the fourth-and-1 play call in the second quarter. Ryan Fitzpatrick faked a handoff to Chris Johnson, rolled with Johnson and hit him with a little pass that CJ turned into a 28-yard gain. The Titans went on to score a touchdown that put them up 21-10. Things went south after that.

Bad flag: I don’t think the officiating went strongly against the Titans. But the personal foul against Bernard Pollard in the third quarter was for a hit to the shoulder of Eric Decker, and it simply did not warrant a flag. It was a key play on the opening drive of the third quarter when Denver marched to a go-ahead TD that made it 27-21. The Titans never got the lead back.

What’s next: The Titans host the Arizona Cardinals in a late-afternoon kickoff at LP Field for their final NFC West matchup of the season. They are 1-2 against the division so far.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When it comes to touchdowns, it doesn’t particularly matter how they are allowed. So the Tennessee Titans aren’t especially proud that they’ve allowed a league-low seven passing touchdowns this season, less than half the NFL average.

That’s because the good number is offset by having allowed 15 rushing touchdowns, which ties them with Jacksonville and Washington for the most. The NFL average is 7.8.

Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner is tied for the league lead with five interceptions. He’s been a big part of improved coverage that has helped the Titans move from the league’s worst scoring defense in 2012 to 13th in the league this season. He doesn’t differentiate touchdowns.

“It doesn’t matter, a touchdown is a touchdown,” he said. “We pride ourself on not giving up touchdowns. I guess [giving up the fewest passing touchdowns] is a nice little stat, but I wouldn’t have even have known unless you told me. Our whole goal is to keep people out of the end zone.”

Red-zone defense has fallen off in a big way, with 11 touchdowns on the last 13 trips by opponents inside the Titans’ 20-yard line. After Week 6 the Titans were tied for 15th in the NFL (at 55.6 percent). Now they are tied for 29th (at 66.7 percent).

An improvement there is a major point of emphasis heading to Oakland. The Raiders have a pretty effective red-zone offense, with touchdowns on 57.7 percent of their trips inside the 20.

The 2000 Titans hold the franchise record for fewest passing touchdowns allowed over 16 games, with 10. It also allowed just seven rushing touchdowns.