Titans find rhythm in victory over Steelers
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 12:50 a.m.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Huge underdogs to the Steelers at LP Field, the stumbling Tennessee Titans regained their footing with an improbable 26-23 victory on a last-second, 40-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.
Playing unlike a team that toted a 1-4 record into the game, the Titans counter-punched when backed against the ropes. Their resiliency was tested early when Mike Wallace torched them with an 82-yard touchdown catch that put the Steelers ahead, 10-3, with 5:25 left in the first.
Tim Shaw, a seldom-used linebacker, blocked a Drew Butler punt on the last play of the opening quarter to fire up the faithful nearly lost amid the thousands of Terrible Towels. Three plays later, running back Jamie Harper slithered in from the 1 to give Tennessee a 13-10 lead.
The Steelers dropped their guard against the disjointed Titans, but veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and former Steelers wide receiver Nate Washington made enough plays to keep the Titans within striking distance.
“For us to fight down to the wire like that, it's huge for us,” guard Steve Hutchinson said. “It's something we needed.”
The Titans appeared ready to fold when linebacker Lawrence Timmons intercepted a Hasselbeck pass early in the fourth quarter to help push the Steelers' lead to 23-16.
Perhaps, the most egregious miscues were drops by wide receiver Kenny Britt. Yet, Britt quickly gain redemption by juggling, then securing a 5-yard touchdown pass with 4:19 left to cap an 80-yard drive that tied the score, 23-23.
The Titans kept hanging around because they made big plays on both sides of the ball. Something they hadn't done all season.
• Hasselbeck, starting for the third time this season, evaded a blitz to flip an underhanded pass to Chris Johnson for a first down at the Steelers' 44 and hit Kendall Wright for a 15-yard completion to set up 47-yard field goal by Bironas as time expired in the first half.
• The defense, which has yielded more points than any team in the league, corralled running back Rashard Mendenhall. The Titans had four tackles for losses — more than the previous five games.
Then, with the Steelers trying to inch placekicker Shaun Suisham closer downfield for his second straight game-winning field goal, five Titans chased after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to force an errant throw on third down with 49 seconds to play.
“I knew (Roethlisberger) was going to keep the playing going,” defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. “We felt we had to get after him, and we made him make a crazy throw.”
Suisham missed the 54-yard field goal to give the Titans a shot at a stunning victory. And when tight end Jared Cook beat linebacker James Harrison for a 25-yard gain to set up Bironas' game-winner, the Titans were in perfect rhythm.
“We were nervous on the sideline, but we have confidence in our kicker,” Britt said.
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.