Commentary by David Climer, The Tennessean
Week by week, the Titans are becoming relevant in the NFL again.
From the depths of a 1-4 start, they now are one win away from getting back to .500.
if they should do that by beating Indianapolis at LP Field next Sunday,
who knows? A team that suddenly is exhibiting a survival streak could
work its way into legitimate playoff contention in the second half of
I wouldn't get carried away and make any travel plans
for New Orleans for the weekend of Feb. 2-3 just yet. The Titans still
have much work to do, especially on defense. It's hard to keep winning
over the long haul if you keep giving up an average of 34 points per
But given where this team was just a couple of weeks ago
when it was bludgeoned at Minnesota 30-7 and fell to 1-4, there is
reason for cautious optimism. If nothing else, the Titans have shown
Sure, the softening schedule has helped. Those were
not your grandfather's Steelers the Titans beat a couple of weeks back.
And the Buffalo team that fell 35-34 on Sunday is every bit as bad on
defense as the Titans are.
But it's a two-game winning streak,
just the same. It's the first time this season the Titans have strung
together back-to-back victories. With games against Indianapolis,
Chicago and Miami before their bye week, the Titans have a legitimate
chance of making more headway.
For now, at least, they are
benefiting from the jumbled standings. With more than half the AFC teams
currently within a game of .500 like the Titans, there could be a
crowded field entering the playoff chase.
With the Titans in
rebound mode, it is fitting that two of Sunday's key operatives continue
to make comebacks of their own. Chris Johnson's 195-yard rushing
performance was a throwback to his 2,006-yard season in '09. Meanwhile,
Matt Hasselbeck oversaw his 22nd career fourth-quarter comeback and his
second in as many games.
With the way Hasselbeck has played
against Pittsburgh and Buffalo, he could test the resolve of coach Mike
Munchak. Following NFL protocol, Munchak has announced that Jake Locker
will reclaim the No. 1 quarterback role when his injured left shoulder
will allow, again relegating Hasselbeck to the role of backup.
a tough call but the right one. If Locker is your franchise
quarterback, as Titans brass determined in the preseason, he should get
the start when able.
But against the Bills, Hasselbeck proved he
is the best relief pitcher in the NFL. He was 5-for-5 on the opening
possession but saved his best for last. His go-ahead touchdown pass to
Nate Washington was a classic veteran move. Hasselbeck used his eyes to
keep the safety in the middle of the field before hitting Washington.
the defense stepped up in the clutch. With the Titans trailing 34-28,
cornerback Jason McCourty jumped a route on third-and-6 and intercepted a
Ryan Fitzpatrick pass. That led to the go-ahead touchdown drive.
after the Titans had gone up by a point, Jordan Babineaux came through
untouched on a safety blitz, forcing Fitzpatrick to unload a fourth-down
pass that flew off-target, essentially ending the game.
pretty. But after a 1-4 start, gutting out a victory to get within a
game of .500 is another step in the right direction.