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Notebook: Titans Control Clock, But Not Ball Against Colts

Posted Dec 1, 2013

Tennessee controlled much of the flow of its game at Indianapolis on Sunday by commanding time of possession and other stats, but controlling the ball wasn’t as simple as controlling the clock.

The Titans held the ball 33:55 but lost it four times and recovered it once in a 22-14 loss that moved the Colts closer to the AFC South title and themselves further from the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs.

The Titans (5-7) recorded five sacks, eight tackles for loss, seven quarterback hits, 11 passes defensed and an interception but were unable to corral any of the three fumbles by the Colts (8-4).

Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan and Karl Klug converge on Andrew Luck, causing a fumble that was recovered by Indy. Casey, Morgan and Klug each separately recorded a sack in the game. Slideshow here.

“We sacked the guy (Andrew Luck) five times, two times he fumbled it,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We couldn’t recover one of them. We missed some interceptions. We knocked the ball out on a punt team, we couldn’t get the ball there. There were so many opportunities to make up and win this game and we didn’t get any of those plays.”

Indianapolis mounted its only touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and recorded its third interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick at the Colts’ 25-yard line with less than a minute remaining.

“It seems like we stand here after a lot of these games saying we lost to Houston in overtime, we lost to these guys by three points, by a touchdown, we lost to Jacksonville by two,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We’re there, we can’t finish the game. We make too many mistakes for whatever reason.”

Of the seven losses this season, it was the sixth decided by nine points or less and again left Titans players and coaches thinking about a few missed opportunities that could have led to an important victory.

“You can't just learn to finish. It's something you just have to have inside you,” Jurrell Casey said. “You've got to be able to come when it's time to go out there and finish a play. That's what it boils down to. It's not really something you can learn, you just have to have it inside you.”

Casey recorded the Titans’ fifth sack of the day and had a tackle on a trick play that dropped WR Darrius Heyward-Bey for an 11-yard loss.

Kamerion Wimbley started the sacks spree midway through the second quarter. Karl Klug and Derrick Morgan each recorded sack fumbles two plays apart inside the two-minute warning. Luck recovered the first, and Donald Brown recovered the second, allowing Indianapolis to punt the ball away.

Zach Brown recorded the fourth with 14 seconds left in the first half, appearing to push the Colts out of field-goal range, but the possession was extended by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty against Moise Fokou, and Adam Vinatieri made a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

The five sacks by Tennessee equaled its season highs (at Pittsburgh, vs. New York Jets).

DRIVES FOR 80: Fitzpatrick led the Titans on 80-yard scoring drives of 10 plays in the second and 14 plays in the third quarter. The QB, who was making his fifth start as a Titan completed a 31-yard pass to Nate Washington, scrambled for 16 yards and found Chris Johnson for an 11-yard catch and run to the Indy 1 to set up a QB sneak on the following play. It was Fitzpatrick’s third rushing touchdown of the season and ninth of his nine-year career.

The Titans opened the second half with a scoring drive that included 10 runs for 54 yards and three passes to Johnson. The final throw occurred on fourth-and-goal from the Indy 1. Fitzpatrick rolled to his right, drawing pressure from Colts safety Antoine Bethea, jumped up and guided the ball to Johnson. It was the 100th passing TD of Fitzpatrick’s career.

1,000-POINT CLUB: Titans kicker Rob Bironas kicked two extra points to become the second player in Titans/Oilers franchise history to join the 1,000 point club.

Bironas entered the game with 998 points, 62 shy of Al Del Greco for the franchise record, and became the 51st player in NFL history to score 1,000 points.   

THIN AT TIGHT END: The Titans entered the game with only two tight ends available because Craig Stevens was out with a concussion he suffered the previous week at Oakland.

The depth took another hit early in the second quarter when Delanie Walker suffered a concussion that caused him to miss the rest of the game, leaving Taylor Thompson as the only true tight end. The Titans used a combination of Thompson and added tackle Mike Otto in formations that used two tight ends.

Walker was hurt on a pass play across the middle where officials ruled he did not complete the catch. Tennessee challenged the ruling, but the call stood, dropping the Titans to 1-for-7 on replay challenges this season.

The injury from Walker prevented Tennessee from going after matchups that Walker created in the first game against the Colts when he had 10 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown on Nov. 14.

“Well, it hurts you when you lose Delanie,” Munchak said. I think it’s more about the passing game allowed the defense to play different coverages because you lose a weapon like Delanie. So that’s a huge loss.”

Titans fullback Collin Mooney suffered a left leg injury after catching a screen pass.

“it’s going to hurt you losing a fullback that takes that part out of the game also,” Munchak said. “Again, whatever you want to call that, bad luck or whatever, but yes, we lost a big weapon in losing him.”

LEON WASHINGTON’S DEBUT: Newly signed return specialist Leon Washington’s debut included a dynamic 33-yard punt return (the second longest punt return of the season) and a 32-yard kickoff return. The eight-year veteran who signed with Tennessee last week after he was released by New England, averaged 21.5 yards on two punt returns and 26 yards on three kickoff returns.

POLLARD’s THIRD PICK: The interception by Bernard Pollard was his third of the season and 12th of his eight-year career. Pollard lined up deep off the ball, normally where Michael Griffin does, and moved up to catch Luck’s pass that bounced off the hands of receiver T.Y. Hilton.

Griffin missed the game because he was serving a one-game suspension without pay from the NFL for what the league called a repeat violation of its player-safety rules. George Wilson started in place of Griffin and recorded five tackles (one for loss) and two passes defensed but was unable to nab an interception on a third-down play with 10:41 left in the game.

LEADING RECEIVERS: Kendall Wright had six catches for 77 yards, including a 35-yarder late, Chris Johnson caught six passes for 32 yards, including the short TD toss by Fitzpatrick, and Nate Washington had five catches for 81 yards, including a 31-yarder.

With the five catches, Washington became the 13th player in franchise history to record 250 receptions as a member of the Titans/Oilers. Wright’s team leading totals improved to 71 catches for 840 yards.

UP NEXT: The Titans visit Denver (10-2) next week to wrap up a three-game road trip.

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