Tennessee Titans: Season-defining moments

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.

Thursday was cutting back Zach Brown’s playing time against Denver and Arizona.

Fitzpatrick
Not in any order, here is the final installment:

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s overtime interception against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Titans were behind by 17 points with 6:10 left after Antoine Cason returned a Fitzpatrick interception for a 20-yard touchdown.

LP Field largely emptied out.

But the Titans sprang to life and did impressive work to rally.

They moved 67 yards on nine plays to a 10-yard touchdown catch by Michael Preston. They forced a three-and-out after missing an onside kick. They moved 87 yards on 10 plays to a 24-yard field goal by Rob Bironas. They got an onside kick recovery from Daimion Stafford. They moved 54 yards on five plays to an 8-yard touchdown catch by Preston.

With 10 seconds remaining, the game was tied.

The Titans won the toss and got the ball to start overtime, but three plays in, Fitzpatrick threw another pick to Cason.

Seven plays later, Jay Feely hit a 41-yard field goal for the 37-34 win.

All the fight and resolve the Titans had show in forging the comeback was undone by that pick, and Tennessee was left to review yet another game it felt is should have won, but didn’t.
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.

We're not going in any order, here is the third installment:

Johnson
Chris Johnson's fumble in Nashville against Jacksonville.

The Titans were 4-4 on Nov. 10 when they kicked off at LP Field against the 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tennessee was flat from the start, turning the ball over four times and watching Jake Locker suffer a season-ending foot injury as the Jaguars broke into the win column.

Johnson got it started with a careless fumble on the Titans' first play from scrimmage. He took a handoff heading right, cut upfield and had the ball popped out by linebacker Paul Posluszny after a four-yard gain. Three plays later the Jaguars were up 7-0, and the home team's unraveling was fully underway.

Johnson was hardly the only culprit, but it was a negative tone-setting play by the franchise’s marquee player.

The quarterbacks did their part -- Locker threw an interception, then lost a fumble on a handoff on his final play of the season, one snap after he suffered a serious Lisfranc foot injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception during his relief stint, and had a fumble ripped away and returned for a score.

First-round pick Chance Warmack, the right guard, was called for a hold of former Titans defensive lineman Sen'Derrick Marks on a another bad play for a fourth-quarter safety that provided the ultimate winning-margin.

“We just didn’t play very well,” former head coach Mike Munchak said. “That goes without saying, probably, but I need to say it. You can’t fumble on the first snap of the game when you have a run. We did some things you can’t do against any team, let alone against a team that we knew was struggling.”

It was the third year in a row in which Munchak’s Titans lost to a team that qualified as the worst in the league at the time.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This week we are looking at five key moments that told the story of the Titans’ 2013 season.

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

Not in any order, here is the second installment:

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

The Titans’ 20-17 win over the Chargers on Week 3 turned out to be the best victory of the season and the only one over a team that would go to the playoffs.

It took a 94-yard touchdown drive that started with 2:05 left in the game to get there.

To cap it, Locker dropped back and threw deep right for Justin Hunter who went up and got it even with a defensive back covering him well.

I wrote about the potential for it to be a moment we look back on as a turning point for the Titans quarterback.

Locker played a great game, with 23 of 37 passing for 299 yards, the touchdown and a 96.6 passer rating to go with five runs for 68 yards including a 7-yard touchdown.

That’s the snapshot of the guy Mike Munchak hoped he had as his quarterback and the one Ken Whisenhunt and his staff will now be hoping to develop.

Locker steadily built to that throw over the first three games and played even better the next week against the Jets. But he suffered knee and hip injuries in that game, missed two starts and didn’t play very well when he got back.

He only lasted three games before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury that could cost him a good share of the offseason.

If you want to make the case against Locker, you point to the long list of injuries, question his durability and wonder about his tendency to try to do too much.

If you want to make the case for him, you look first to that 2:00 drive against the Chargers and say that’s what he can do, all the Titans need to do is get him healthy and maximize his chances to duplicate that.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We waited on a coach getting fired, then we had one get hired and see him fill out his staff.

Last week we visited Radio Row at the Super Bowl.

[+] EnlargeDarius Reynaud
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicDarius Reynaud's bad decision set the tone for Tennessee's special teams all season.
So I’m not going to say we’re late getting to some additional season-in-review material. I’m just going to dive in.

This week we will look at five key moments that told the story of the Tennessee Titans' 2013 season.

Not in any order, here is the first installment:

Darius Reynaud's fielding of the season's opening kickoff.

Unfathomably, the Titans return man moved to the goal line and reached forward to collect the kick at Heinz Field, then pulled the ball back into the end zone and took a knee looking for a touchback.

After a conference, officials called it a safety.

The play didn’t serve as a big omen on the game. Tennessee rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-9 on Sept. 8, 2013.

But it was symbolic of what would become a problem. Reyanud’s decision-making deteriorated and he was finally cut after seven games. The Titans replaced him with receiver Damian Williams who wasn’t good either and quickly got hurt.

The option after that was Devon Wyllie, and his muff in the third quarter of a Nov. 14 game against the Indianapolis Colts undid the Titans and led to a loss that dropped them to 4-6.

Nov. 27 they signed Leon Washington, a gift from the football gods and from the New England Patriots, who cut the veteran returner when they needed roster room. Five games from Washington was 11 too few.

Reynaud’s blunder was a sign of things to come in a poor special teams year -- bad return decisions, muffs, dropped punt snaps and more.

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