Tennessee closed the preseason by opening with three consecutive scoring drives but lost 24-23 at Minnesota Thursday.
|Jackie Battle started at running back and carried the ball 10 times and made one reception during Tennessee's opening 18-play drive in the Titans' preseason finale at Minnesota. Click here for a slideshow. |
The Titans mounted an 18-play drive that digested the first 8:59 of the game and ended with a 28-yard field goal by Rob Bironas. The drive featured a heavy dose of Jackie Battle and 12 rushes (including a short scramble by Jake Locker on a play that was originally a pass).
Battle started at running back instead of Chris Johnson (coach’s decision) or Shonn Greene (ankle) and gained 8, 4 and 4 more on his first three carries. Battle had 10 carries for 38 yards and added an 11-yard gain on a screen pass from Locker to convert third-and-6. He also gained 9 on fourth-and-1 during the drive before heading to the sidelines with Tennessee’s starters.
“We started off the way we hoped,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We ran the ball well, but we just didn’t finish off the first drive. I think we had about 17 or 18 plays on that drive. That’s the kind of team we want to be this year. The offense did a nice job scoring all three times we had the ball. I would have liked to see the defense get a stop on that drive before the half. We’re doing some good things at times, but the young guys have to get some more stops.”
Locker was 3-for-5 passing for 31 yards and finished the preseason 33-for-49 (67.3 percent) for 338 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions.
“We got a lot of plays and had a good drive and ate a lot of the clock,” Locker said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get in the end zone on that one, but it was good to move the ball the way we did and get that comfortable feeling so that we’re ready for next week against Pittsburgh.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Titans on a touchdown drive on their next and his only possession of the game. Tennessee blended runs by Jalen Parmele with completions by Fitzpatrick to Parmele, undrafted rookie Jack Doyle twice and Michael Preston before Fitzpatrick hit second-round draft pick Justin Hunter in stride for a 17-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead with 7:35 left in the first half.
Minnesota responded with its second straight 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 14-10 lead with 2:29 left in the first half.
The Titans opted to bring in Rusty Smith at QB, and the fourth-year pro responded with crisp execution during the hurry-up offense. Smith opened with a 9-yard pass to Hunter, and completed six of his final seven attempts of the possession. Smith hit Williams for 19, then Parmele, Preston and Hunter for three consecutive gains of 11 yards before going back to Hunter and capping the drive with a short toss to Doyle.
Minnesota again responded and retook the lead on a 109-yard kickoff return by Marcus Sherels to start the second half.
Tennessee capped 10-play drives with field goals by Bironas in the third and fourth quarter for a 23-21 lead, but Minnesota’s Blair Walsh hit a 25-yard field goal with 1:38 remaining in the game.
Smith was unable to duplicate his first-half success because a low shotgun snap from rookie Brian Schwenke was recovered by the Vikings to seal the game.
Other items of note:
— Seventh-round draft pick Daimion Stafford recorded his first interception in the NFL and returned it nine yards and also returned a fumble forced on a hit by Jonathan Willard and Gary Guyton at Tennessee’s goal line 40 yards.
— Tennessee rushed the ball a preseason-high 41 times for 147 yards (3.6) per carry and finished the preseason with 587 yards on 132 carries (4.5 per carry).
— Colin McCarthy didn’t start but played a significant amount of time in his 2013 debut and first game action since Nov. 25, 2012, when he was diagnosed with a concussion.
— In addition to Greene, receivers Kendall Wright (knee), Kenny Britt (coach’s decision), Nate Washington (coach’s decision) and Marc Mariani (shoulder), fullback Quinn Johnson (hamstring), cornerback Jason McCourty (coach’s decision), safety Bernard Pollard (coach’s decision), linebackers Zaviar Gooden (ankle), Zach Brown (foot) and Akeem Ayers (ankle), defensive ends Ropati Pitoitua (hand) and Derrick Morgan (coach’s decision), and defensive tackles Jurrell Casey (coach’s decision) and Sammie Hill (elbow) did not play.
— Damian Williams and Michael Preston started at receiver, and Collin Mooney played fullback in place of Quinn Johnson.
—Mike Martin started in place of Jurrell Casey, and Kamerion Wimbley started in place of Derrick Morgan. George Wilson started in place of Bernard Pollard, and the Titans started Alterraun Verner and Tommie Campbell at cornerback while resting Jason McCourty. Patrick Bailey started in place of Akeem Ayers, and Tim Shaw started in place of Zach Brown for the second straight week.
—Tight end Delanie Walker made his debut with the Titans. The free agent addition had a knee scope before training camp and viewed the limited action at Minnesota as a way to ready himself for Pittsburgh.
—Tennessee and all NFL teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players by 5 p.m. CT Saturday.