Rookie second-rounder Justin Hunter is called Bambi by the other receivers for his propensity to fall down. But he stayed up and made two defensive backs look foolish with a nice move that produced a 54-yard catch and run touchdown.
Justin Hunter (left) and Kendall Wright combined for 212 yards on 12 catches against the Raiders on Sunday.
Wright again showed his toughness, popping up from an ankle injury and returning to action in short order to score the game-winning touchdown.
Both topped 100-yards in a game we may look back on as the start of an era where the Titans have a top tandem of pass-catchers.
"Hard work and humbleness, both of them,” veteran receiver Nate Washington said. "As good as they both are now, they're both willing to listen, they both understand right now they both have a lot of work to do. They come in every week and work as hard as possible.”
Said Wright of Hunter: "He made some spectacular catches today, he made some tough catches." He's working hard every day, maturing as a player. He's growing up. We still have a lot of work to do, him, me, everybody else.”
Wright hurt his right ankle early in the fourth quarter and it looked like trouble. He didn't know then that the Titans would be extra late returning to Nashville because their charter was delayed by 90 minutes. Still, he had no desire to be in super-early Monday morning to be with trainers and guys who finish the game don't have to get up at that hour.
"I settled down a lot,” he said. "I almost felt like it was broke the way it did it. But I told myself out there, ‘I'm not waking up at 6 in the morning to go to treatment. I'm just not doing it. I hate the training room, I hate being in there. So I'm going to do anything I can to get back out there.”
Hunter's been used increasingly as Kenny Britt's faded and Damian Williams has been out. The rookie had just seven catches on the season but was targeted six times by Fitzpatrick in this game, catching them all.
"I think it's been a steady climb all season long,” Fitzpatrick said. "I think he feels like he's starting to get it and belongs, more so than maybe at the beginning of the season. He's not just a guy that we're going to send down field and throw deep balls to. He's a guy that can really make some plays underneath. He's gotten better and he's worked so hard at it and now the reward and having a big game, it was good.”
Said Wright of Hunter's 54-yard touchdown: "Usually, the play he scored on, any other day at practice or something he probably would have fell. But he didn't [on Sunday]."
Hunter is very soft spoken.
In the locker room after the game, receivers coach Shawn Jefferson passed him his smartphone. There was something on the screen someone had sent along for him to read, and he smiled as he took it in.
I could hardly hear him in a bustling locker room where guys weren't clearing out because they had to pass some time waiting for the plane.
He said his intent was to cut all the way across the field but he found the path past safety Brandian Ross and corner Phillip Adams was to turn back to the right.
"I hope so, I hope this is a day it gets started for us together,” he said of his work with Wright. "We're going to be together for a while.”