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Notebook: Titans Defense Clutch in Critical Moments Against Rams

Posted Nov 3, 2013

Tennessee’s defense played its best Sunday on possessions that followed turnovers by the Titans’ offense.

Jake Locker would like to have back a pair of passes that resulted in interceptions Sunday, but more important, Tennessee’s defense had the quarterback’s back.

Locker tried to hit Kenny Britt but was intercepted by former Titan Cortland Finnegan with 44 seconds left in the first half. The third-year pro and second-year starter tried to connect with Nate Washington with 4:44 left in the game, but it was picked by Rodney McLeod.

Derrick Morgan recovered this fumble by Rams QB Kellen Clemens to set up the decisive score in Tennessee's 28-21 win at St. Louis.
Click here for the slideshow from the game.

Both times, however, the Titans overcame the offensive errors and refused to allow points off either turnover and capitalized on a critical mistake by the Rams.

Tennessee forced three straight incompletions by Kellen Clemens and a missed 44-yard field goal attempt by Greg Zuerlein in the first half.

“For our defense to come back out and stop them three-and-out and then force a missed field goal was huge,” Locker said. “We didn’t score points or any of that but I think we went in with momentum. After you have a play like that it’s a big thing for you as a team.”

The Titans’ defense followed the second turnover by reclaiming the ball on a sack and forced fumble my Jurrell Casey with 2:59 left in the game.

“I came through with a double swipe, and the ball came free,” Casey said. “I knew we needed a big play for the team and I had to come up with it and I got the job done so we could take the lead.”

Casey won a one-on-one rush up the middle and struck the ball from Clemens’ grasp. Kamerion Wimbley prevented Clemens from recovering the ball as Derrick Morgan corralled it at the St. Louis 19-yard line.

Chris Johnson scored his second touchdown of the game one play later to give Tennessee a 28-21 lead with 2:54 left.

The Titans forced a quick three-and-punt on the Rams’ next possession but were only able to run 1:22 off the clock and punted with 1:05 remaining. Rookie Tavon Austin returned Brett Kern’s 50-yard punt 24 yards before rookie Zaviar Gooden forced him out of bounds at the 39-yard line.

St. Louis moved the ball to the Tennessee 26-yard line with 21 seconds remaining, and Clemens took two shots at the end zone with throws to Austin Pettis that were well defended.

Locker was able to take a knee on the following play to give Tennessee (4-4) its first win since Sept. 29 when Locker suffered hip and knee sprains against the New York Jets.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he was pleased with the way his team fought until the end and finished the challenging game.

“We all knew how important this game was for us after losing three tough football games in a row and after starting 3-1,” Munchak said. “We came into a tough place to play and to a team that also needed to win in a bad way. Yes this is a big win for us and we just knew that we need to find a way to win. We haven’t won in over 30 days. That is a long time. I thought the guys really fought hard today, it wasn’t always how we like it, but I thought they hung together.”

This close-up illustrates the patch that Titans players are wearing on their jerseys in memory of Titans/Oilers founder K.S. "Bud" Adams, Jr., who owned the franchise 54 years before passing away Oct. 21.

FOR “BUD”: Titans players wore a uniform patch, and coaches wore lapel pins with the Titans logo and “Bud” written on them in honor of Titans/Oilers founder K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr., who owned the franchise 54 years before passing away Oct. 21 at age 90.   

Munchak dedicated game balls to members of Adams’ family.

WILLIAMS HANDLES RETURNS: Damian Williams handled punt and kick return duties for the first time in a regular season game.

The fourth-year pro stepped into the role in place of Darius Reynaud, who was released after Tennessee’s game against San Francisco.

Williams averaged 29.5 yards on two kickoff returns, including a 37-yarder to help the Titans score a touchdown drive to tie the game at 14 in the third quarter. Williams also alertly recovered what was ruled a muffed punt after he tried to signal a fair catch and was struck as the ball arrived. Officials ruled the contact occurred because Tommie Campbell had shoved the Rams’ player in the back.

Williams was the deep returner on the opening kick but the ball was short. It hit off Taylor Thompson and was picked up by Jackie Battle, who returned it 26 yards to the Tennessee 32.

CASEY KEEPS CLIMBING: In addition to the sack fumble, Casey recorded another sack of Clemens, further adding to his career high total for a season with a team-best six sacks.

CAREER LONG FOR WRIGHT: Second-year receiver Kendall Wright led the Titans with three catches for 69 yards that included a career-long 45-yard reception on a slant. Locker made one of his best throws of the day to hit Wright in perfect stride, and Wright streaked diagonally across the field one play after St. Louis (3-6) tied the game at 21. Wright has 43 receptions for 502 yards this season.

GRIFFIN’S STREAK ENDS: A quadriceps injury sidelined Michael Griffin. The safety had never missed a game (103 regular season, two playoff contests) since his selection by Tennessee in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He was very proud of that streak and hoped the injury that occurred Oct. 20 would be helped by last week’s bye.

Veteran George Wilson started in place of Griffin and played in his 100th career game.

WASHINGTON’S HALTED, TOO: Nate Washington’s streak of 85 straight games (71 with Tennessee) with at least one reception ended Sunday. Locker targeted the receiver four times but was unable to connect.

SENSABAUGH RECOVERS FUMBLE: Coty Sensabaugh recorded his second career fumble recovery of the season and career in the first quarter. Sensabaugh corralled a fumble by former Middle Tennessee State RB Benny Cunningham at the Tennessee 10-yard line to end the Rams’ first possession of the game.

It was the second takeaway for the second-year nickel back in a four-game span (vs. Kansas City on Oct. 6).

INACTIVES: The Titans were also without starting linebacker Moise Fokou (knee) and right tackle David Stewart (shoulder). Colin McCarthy started in place of Fokou for the second straight week, and Mike Otto started in place of Stewart.

Other inactives for the Titans were: QB Rusty Smith, LB Zac Diles, G/T Pat McQuistan and DE Lavar Edwards.

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