It wasn’t pretty, but any win is a good win in the NFL, and on a day when the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers combined for nine turnovers the Titans managed to pull off a 23-17 come from behind victory in the rain.
The Titans offense struggled through the first half managing to gain just 133 net yards while turning the ball over three times, two by fumble but managed to use a trick play to go to the break tied with the Buccaneers.
After a first quarter Connor Barth 43 yard field goal gave Tampa Bay an early 3-0 lead, the Titans used rookie Tommie Campbell to pull of the longest play of the game.
Marc Mariani fielded the ensuing kickoff returned the ball to the 16 yard line where he handed it to Campbell on a reverse. Campbell then outraced the coverage team to the corner and down the home sideline 84 yards for his first career touchdown to give the Titans a 7-3 first quarter lead.
“We did the handoff about 50 times throughout the week,” said Campbell. “I had to come early to practice because the handoff was the most important thing.”
I’m going to give my first touchdown ball to my mom,’ continued Campbell. “I’ve got to go get it, but I’m going to give it to my mom because she was down for the game, so it’s pretty special to score a touchdown for my mom.”
The Titans added another score in the second quarter when Rob Bironas connected on a 52 yard field goal with 3:57 remaining in the half to increase the Titans lead to 10-3.
Buccaneer quarterback Josh Freeman had an answer however when he connected with wide receiver Mike Williams on a 3 yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining in the half to tie the score at intermission.
The second have proved to be more of the same as neither team could hold on to the football, but it was the return of Chris Johnson that provided the Titans a second half spark.
After carrying just 9 times for 46 yards in the first half, Johnson went to work on the ground with 14 carries for 154 yards. Johnson was not allowed to score by the Bucs defense, but was a driving force in all three scoring drives.
For the day Johnson recorded his third best game as a pro with 190 yards on 23 attempts.
“It felt good to finally get out there and get some open space and make some plays,” said Johnson. “The offensive line out there blocked great.”
“Well I think from what you can tell, when he (Chris Johnson) runs for 190 yards or whatever he had< I think just like when we weren’t running well everyone gets the credit,” said Head Coach Mike Munchak.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had arguably his worst game as a Titan, completing just 19 of 34 passes for 160 yards and a passer rating of 53.6, but the 13 year veteran came through in the end.
After throwing his second interception of the game that was returned 27 yards by Aqib Talib that gave the Buccaneers a17-10 third quarter lead, Hasselbeck provided the play of the day to give the Titans a final lead of the day.
After Bironas connected on his second field goal of the game, this from 52 yards to cut the Tampa lead to 17-13, the Titans defense provided the stop the team needed when they forced the Buccaneers to punt.
Following a Tampa Bay punt that gave the Titans possession from their 20 yard line, it took Hasslebeck and the offense 10 plays to go 80 in 4:13 to regain the lead. Hasselbeck was 4 of 6 for 27 yards with the final two yards coming on a touchdown pass to Damien Williams on the back line of the end zone to give the Titans the lead. What made the play even more dramatic was the fact that it came on a 4th and goal.
“Well, it was a great job by our receivers staying alive,” said Hasselbeck. “One thing that our coaching staff talks about is playing the back line and throwing the ball on the upper shelf, shoulder pads or higher, face mask or higher.”
“It’s a bread and butter play for us, but they just came out and played a soft zone and Damien (Williams) did a really job of working the back line,” said Hasselbeck.
Williams managed to get both feet down and stay inbounds, though the play was reviewed; it was clear that indeed he did get both feet down just short of the back line.
“I knew it was back there, I just didn’t know it as that close,” said Williams.
“I was supposed to run a curl but their safety shot, and you know last week we ran the out rout to Nate (Washington) and the safety shot and tried to cut it off and was just out of position,” said Williams. “I came out of my break and I was wide open but Matt (Hasselbeck) couldn’t see me but I was just trying to get in his vision, I knew I was open but luckily he stayed with me and kept working.”
Rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy continued to impress with his play, starting in place of an injured Barrett Rudd for the second time in three game, and lead the team with 10 tackles and provided a huge interception with 2:25 remaining to stop a Buccaneer drive and allow Bironas to finish the Titans scoring with a 38 yard field goal that provided the final margin of 23-17
The Bucs received the ensuing kickoff with 1:44 remaining and started a drive from their own 20 yard line, but it was ended by the Titan defense on a 4th and one play from the Tennessee 25 yard line. Defensive tackle Jason Jones read quarterback sneak from Freeman and hit the quarterback causing a fumble to end the drive.
“That’s what it is man, it came down to that last play fourth and one, we had to bowe up from the looks of it I knew they was gonna run the quarterback sneak,” said Jones. “He got under center, we had a three man line up there and the one thing I wanted to do was try to disrupt the concentration and by the time he got the ball I was in the backfield and held him up.”
Today’s 23-17 final score was the second consecutive game for the Titans that has ended in that exact score, though last week’s game ended in a Titans loss.
The Titans, now 6-5, need to find a way to continue to win and will get another chance next Sunday when they travel to Buffalo to face the Bills in a noon kickoff.
The Bills, now 5-6 after today’s 28-24 road loss to the Jets, will also need a win to keep their diminishing playoff hopes alive next week.