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Thursday, February 6, 2014
The fourth of five season-defining moments

By Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This week we are looking at five key moments that told the story of the Tennessee Titans' 2013 season.

Monday was Darius Reynaud’s safety on the opening kickoff return of the season.

Tuesday was Jake Locker’s touchdown pass to Justin Hunter to beat San Diego.

Wednesday was Chris Johnson’s fumble to start off the loss to Jacksonville.

Brown
Not in any order, here is the fourth installment:

Cutting back Zach Brown's playing time against Denver and Arizona.

Weakside linebacker Zach Brown hardly had a stellar season. He started strong, but like a lot of the defense, and particularly the linebackers, dropped off as the season went on.

But the way Mike Munchak and the defensive staff handled Brown in the team’s 13th and 14th games of the season made little sense.

In Denver, the Titans started rookie Zaviar Gooden in Brown's spot, and played Brown 38 snaps to Gooden’s 31. The rationale Munchak explained was that the Titans expected to be tired and needed to use more guys against Peyton Manning.

That left me wondering if Brown was already tired after warm-ups and needed to be replaced for the opening defensive snap of the game. It would seem the best way to keep defenders fresh against Manning and the Broncos would be to play your best defenders and have them make third-down stops. But the Titans went with the idea that a lesser player like Gooden, who had never played on defense or faced Manning before, would enhance their chances at stopping the high-powered Broncos.

A week later against Arizona, Brown started but was benched after six snaps.

Brown was confused about what unfolded, and said no coach had spoken to him about it, even though I was told by someone who would know that Brown had been talked to.

Then, on Dec. 22 in Jacksonville, Gooden was a healthy inactive. And in the season finale he played only on special teams, not at all on defense.

It was confusing all around and sent a message to the locker room, media and fans that the coaching staff didn’t really have a handle on what it was doing.