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Notebook: Titans Defense Handles Critical Situations Versus Jaguars

Posted Dec 22, 2013

Titans safety George Wilson happily gave away game-worn gloves to foster children Friday, but had a fresh pair for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars.

Turns out, the veteran only needed one gloved hand to snare a pass by Chad Henne with 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and secure a 20-16 road victory by Tennessee.

Wilson halted Jacksonville’s comeback attempt with a key play that stemmed from preparation the previous week.

George Wilson snares an interception with one hand in Tennessee's win at Jacksonville. Slideshow.

“We were playing Cover 2 and it was a second down situation. We know that with the two-minute drill they have to get the ball down the field to get into position so they can take some shots at the end zone,” Wilson said. “Just from our scouting, we know that on first and second downs they like to get the ball down the field. I saw the play-action play-fake to my side and I saw the tight end going vertical.  Once I saw him clear me, I had my underneath coverage so I know I’m getting depth. I had my eyes back on the quarterback and he was eyeing the tight end going up the seam, and I was able to make a play on the football.” 

Wilson’s first interception as a Titan was one of several key plays delivered by Titans defenders in the second half. Tennessee allowed just 85 yards, five first downs and three points after allowing 204 net yards, 10 first downs and 13 points in the opening half.

The fact that it wasn’t 14 points in the second half was because of a hustle play by Bernard Pollard, who blocked an extra point attempt by Josh Scobee with less than minute remaining. It was the first block of an extra point by Pollard during his eight-year pro career, but a play similar to a field goal block he executed against the Chargers that loomed large earlier this season.

“(The blocked extra point) is why they went for it when they were down four instead of being down three late in the fourth quarter,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “I talked at halftime about how good that play was. The same thing happened (a blocked kick against) San Diego which gave us the momentum on a bad situation at halftime. The guys stepped up and played. The beginning wasn’t like we hoped, but we worked our way through it.”

The Titans overcame an interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick on the third play of the second half by forcing a field goal by Scobee, and the defense didn’t surrender another point for the final 24 minutes. Tennessee rallied with touchdowns by Shonn Greene and Nate Washington that were less than five minutes apart to take the 20-16 lead with 14:25 left.

The importance of the block extra point showed up again with less than six minutes to go. Jacksonville had a third-and-4 from the Tennessee 23 and had a quick screen pass from Henne to Ace Sanders, but Jason McCourty powered through a blocker to stop Sanders a yard short. Jacksonville opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 with a handoff to Maurice Jones-Drew on a play that had been successful earlier in the game. Ropati Pitoitua, however, made initial contact and Pollard finished off Jones-Drew for a 1-yard loss.

“I think the third down play was big. I believe (Jason) McCourty made the tackle on the quick screen,” Munchak said. “It looked like they were going to convert there. Having that and knowing they were going to run there and they did a great job there at the line of scrimmage. It’s the difference in games.”

The Titans pounded the ball with Greene four straight times for 24 yards, and Chris Johnson gave a great second effort to convert a third-and-4 near midfield that allowed Tennessee (6-9) to run almost two additional minutes off the clock before punting to Jacksonville (4-11) with 1:08 remaining.

“This (win) meant a lot to them like I have been saying all week for obvious reasons, that we hadn’t won in a while and it was a division game,” Munchak said. “It was close and we did accomplish a lot of things today.”

SOUND ON THE GROUND: Greene had 19 carries for 91 yards and his fourth TD as a Titan, and Johnson had 22 carries for 90 yards, providing the combination that the Titans envisioned at the start of the season. That plan, however, took a hit when Greene suffered a knee injury after four carries in the season opener that sidelined him until October.

“Both (running) backs had 90 yards each or close to it and that is what we envisioned and it was great to see it today,” Munchak said. “We were blocking well and had only one turnover, but we got one back at the end because George makes a great play.”

Greene had 22 carries for 89 yards in the past three games combined, and Johnson had 43 carries for 155 yards in that span, but the Titans strongly committed to the run game in the third quarter with eight straight rushes. Tennessee had its second-best time of possession (35:39) of the season.

Johnson had gains of 4, 8 and 9, and Greene followed with 3, 29, 2, 2 and his 1-yard score. Johnson has 950 rushing yards on the season and is 50 shy of recording his sixth straight 1,000-yard season.

BIG DAY FOR NATE: Washington had six catches for 117 yards, including the 30-yard TD that proved to be the game winner. It marked the third game this season in which Washington had gone past 100 yards. He has 56 catches on the season for 880 yards and three TDs.

Fitzpatrick, who was 17-of-26 passing for 181 yards, also connected with Washington for consecutive gains of 26 and 25 on the first possession of the game and 19 and 15 later on, making the receiver involved in five of Tennessee’s six longest plays of the game.

DUAL SACKS: Kamerion Wimbley recorded his third sack of the season when he dropped Henne for a loss in the first quarter, and Derrick Morgan recorded his fifth sack of the season in the third quarter.

ROAD SPLIT: Tennessee finished its road slate 4-4 and returns home next week to host Houston (2-13) in the season finale. The Texans have lost 13 in a row since coming back late and defeating the Titans in overtime in Week 2.

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