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Notebook: Bironas Sets Franchise Record

Posted Oct 12, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rob Bironas’ arms went up before the referees lifted theirs.

The Titans kicker knew he drilled a 40-yard field goal as time expired Thursday to lift the Titans to a 26-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at LP Field. So did his holder Brett Kern.

Bironas set the Titans/Oilers franchise record with his 11th game-winning kick, moving past Al Del Greco. He also, when officials confirmed the attempt was good, sent the Titans’ sideline into a frenzy: offensive line coach Bruce Matthews bumped chests with second-year head coach Mike Munchak.

“We needed to get on track tonight,” said Bironas, who along with the coverage unit, was unaffected by Pittsburgh taking a timeout before the attempt.

WATCH IT AGAIN WITH NFL GAME REWIND

It was a wild fourth quarter that included 10-point rallies by the Steelers (2-3) and Titans (2-4). With less than a minute remaining, the game came down to the wire and up to the kickers.

Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham, who hit a game-winner in Week 5 and a 52-yarder with 8:18 left, came up short on a 54-yarder in the final minute, giving Tennessee the ball at its own 45-yard line with 49 seconds remaining.

Munchak said it was probably a tough decision for Pittsburgh to attempt the 54-yarder, and said he thought the Titans would still have a chance to tie or win had the Steelers been successful.

Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, making his second consecutive start in place of injured second-year pro Jake Locker, piloted the Titans down the field. He connected with Chris Johnson for a gain of 5 and found tight end Jared Cook on a crossing route two plays later for a gain of 25 to convert third-and-5.

“On Jared Cook’s catch we are trying to work the two-man combination on the right side,” Hasselbeck said. “They were bringing a blitz, which is what they do and they are very good at it, and we just happened to have our protection sliding that way. Jared came underneath and beat the fire zone guy and had a bunch of room to run.”

The Titans ran once with Johnson for a short gain, and turned it over to special teams. It was the 21st career game-winning drive by Hasselbeck.

“We had the shorter field, but even there we were down to third down,” Munchak said. “If we don’t get the third-down conversion, I probably have to punt because I can’t get rid of the ball at midfield with 35 seconds or whatever it was left if we don’t convert fourth down.

“So that was very nerve-racking how that was all going to play out, and luckily Cookie (Jared Cook) makes the great play, him and Matt (Hasselbeck), and now I can just worry about running one play and kicking it and Rob (Bironas) making the kick.Great way to finish, things fell our way at the end there and…we’re long overdue for a break or two,” Munchak added.

PUNT BLOCK KEYS TD: The Titans twice overcame four-point deficits against the Steelers, and did so the first time with help from a blocked punt by special teams captain Tim Shaw.

Shaw went up the middle, forcefully and accurately striking Drew Butler’s punt and driving the ball back toward the end zone. Four Titans players converged on the football, and Jason McCourty recovered it at the one-yard line on the final play of the first quarter.

“It was the first punt of the game, and we knew they would snap the ball quickly so I was ready for that,” Shaw said.  “(Coach Alan Lowry) called a block, and I just went as hard as I could. I was ready for the snap, went as hard as I could, and they messed up and didn’t block me and I just took advantage, I can’t believe we didn’t score off it.”

It was the first blocked punt by the Titans since one by Patrick Bailey on Oct. 30, 2011 against Indianapolis. Bailey was inactive Thursday because of a hand injury.

The Titans pounded the ball into the end zone with Jamie Harper two plays later. It was Harper’s first score of the season and second of his two-year career.

HASSELBECK STARTS, FINISHES STRONG: Hasselbeck completed eight of his first 12 attempts for 99 yards and led the Titans on scoring drives on their two final possessions.

The Titans came out firing, with Hasselbeck connecting with Nate Washington on a deep crossing route for 19 yards on the first play of the game. Hasselbeck then converted third-and-3 with a 15-yard pass to Britt. Two plays later Hasselbeck targeted Damian Williams on a deep pass and Williams drew a 25-yard pass interference penalty to get the ball at the Pittsburgh 2. The Titans, however, had to settle for a field goal by Bironas.

Tennessee built a 16-10 halftime lead with a 47-yard field goal to end the first half. Pittsburgh, however, built two substantial drives in the third quarter, controlling the ball for 11 minutes, 13 seconds in the period, the second of which ended with a TD by Baron Batch to put the Steelers up 20-16 early in the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh intercepted Hasselbeck on the ensuing possession and took a 23-16 lead with Suisham’s 52-yarder.

Hasselbeck and the Titans, however recovered with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that started with a 12-yard run by Johnson, included gains of 16 and 35 yards on passes to Kendall Wright and ended with a 5-yard pass to Kenny Britt to convert third-and-goal.

It was Britt’s first TD of the season and 16th of his career. The ball hit Britt in the right chest and flipped upward, rotating end-over-end a multiple of times before he corralled it.

Hasselbeck finished 25-for-44 passing for 290 yards, one TD and one interception for a rating of 75. He also took three sacks and narrowly escaped another when he made an underhand check-down pass to Johnson for a gain of 12 that set up the field goal before the half.

RECEIVERS ROLL: The Titans had four players with at least 50 receiving yards. Wright had a career-high 71 yards on six catches that included his career long of 35.

Britt added 62 yards on four catches, Cook had 54 yards on four catches and Washington had three catches for 57 yards.

STRONG GAME FOR CJ: Johnson added 23 yards on four catches and rushed 19 times for 91 yards (4.8 per carry. It was a strong performance that also included helping protect the pocket on blitzes by Pittsburgh.

Ten of Johnson’s carries were for at least five yards, and he had another that was reduced because of a holding penalty.

“Anytime you are going against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s going to be a dog fight,” Johnson said. “They’ve got the type of defense where you’re not going to see a lot of big runs against them. During the week, just looking at film on them, we looked at explosive plays or runs. They only had two explosive runs on them. It’s the type of fight you are going in knowing you got to take the full five yards and just keeping wearing down the defense.”

MCCOURTY INTERCEPTION LEADS TO POINTS: Jason McCourty halted a drive by Pittsburgh late in the first half when he intercepted Ben Roethlisberger at the Tennessee 12 with 1:31 left in the first half.

The pick helped reclaim momentum one play after Pittsburgh gained 55 yards on a pass to Isaac Redman and led to a field goal. It was McCourty’s first interception of the season and fifth of his career.

MORGAN RECORDS SACK: Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan, a Pennsylvania native, recorded a sack of Roethlisberger, two quarterback hits and two tackles for loss against the Steelers.

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