Commentary by David Climer, The Tennessean
I guess the Titans don't plan to go quietly after all.
With their season on the brink, the Titans drew a line in the turf at LP Field on Thursday night. By beating Pittsburgh 26-23, they stopped the bleeding and made a statement that they are in this for the long haul.
Maybe this season isn't lost after all.
much work remains. When you dig a hole this deep by losing four of your
first five games, it takes more than a victory over the Steelers to
repair all the damage.
But it's a start.
"For us, it's a
great accomplishment beating a very good football team," said Titans
Coach Mike Munchak. "... Hopefully, we can build off this."
this was the last game of a front-loaded schedule that pitted the
Titans against prime competition. They now get a break before playing at
Buffalo on Oct. 21. Better days should be ahead.
If so, we will
look back on this evening as a turning point. Instead of fading when
momentum swung against them in the fourth quarter, the Titans staged a
comeback, eventually winning on Rob Bironas' 40-yard field goal as time
Few outside of the Titans' locker room saw it coming. Why
would we? In the previous two games, the Titans had put up only token
resistance in lopsided losses at Houston and Minnesota. Their flesh was
weak. Their spirit looked even weaker.
But just when things appeared bleak, they responded with their most complete game of the season.
we can put a stake in the ground with this victory," said quarterback
Matt Hasselbeck, who rebounded from a horrible game last week to oversee
the decisive drive against the Steelers.
Give Pittsburgh Coach
Mike Tomlin an assist on this one. Facing fourth down at the Titans
36-yard line inside the one-minute mark, Tomlin sent Shaun Suisham out
for a 54-yard field goal attempt. Suisham had made a 52-yarder earlier
in the fourth quarter.
But this one came up short, with the ball returning to the spot of the kick, giving the Titans good field position.
banged the other one before that pretty clean so I decided to give him a
shot at it," Tomlin said. "I take the responsibility for the miss."
there, Hasselbeck took over. The pressure point came on third-and-5 at
midfield. Hasselbeck retreated and waited for tight end Jared Cook to
work his way across the field and into a gaping hole in the Pittsburgh
Hasselbeck hit him in stride and Cook finished off a
25-yard gain. After a short Chris Johnson run, Bironas delivered the
Credit Hasselbeck for hanging in there. He had
struggled in relief of the injured Jake Locker in the Houston and
Minnesota games, but made a number of clutch throws against the
Steelers. He was sacked three times and harassed throughout the game but
Hasselbeck threw for 290 yards and a touchdown.
He was at his
best when the game was on the line. With the Titans trailing 23-16
midway through the fourth quarter, Hasselbeck oversaw an 11-play,
80-yard touchdown drive that tied the game. The biggest play of that
drive came on third-and-8 when he found an open Kendall Wright over the
middle and hit him for a 35-yard gain.
Hasselbeck finished that
drive with a 5-yard pass to Kenny Britt, with the ball initially
glancing off Britt's hands before he secured the catch in the end zone.
Then came the winning drive, which featured the key pass to Cook.
fact that the Titans were still in position to win at the end is a
testament to their perseverance. Given what had happened in the last two
weeks, it was particularly heartening to see how the Titans responded
to adversity early in the game.
With the score tied 3-3, Ben
Roethlisberger burned them with an 82-yard bomb to Mike Wallace, who had
beaten cornerback Jason McCourty by a step and then outran safety
Michael Griffin to the goal line.
It was the kind of play that
could have snowballed on the Titans. Indeed, if this team were as
fragile as it appeared in the previous two games, the Titans would have
gone into retreat.
But that's when they dug in. And a season that appeared to be headed nowhere took a turn for the better.
"Hopefully this is something we're going to continue to see week in and week out," Munchak said.
Can they sustain it? Nobody knows. It's not like one game cured everything that was wrong with the Titans.
But for one night at least, they refused to lose.