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Notebook: Titans Lament Critical Stretch

Posted Nov 15, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans coach Mike Munchak wanted back the Colts’ drive before halftime, while defenders said they’d like to redo the opening possession of the second half.

Most in attendance at LP Field Thursday night lamented a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but defensive players said they could have made it less significant by forcing a field goal.

Regardless of the different attributions for when the game got away, Tennessee is again reeling from missed opportunities after a 30-27 loss to Indianapolis.

The Titans (4-6) had a chance to move within a game of Indianapolis (7-3) but instead find themselves three back with six games left. Tennessee opened hot and built a 17-3 lead with 2:32 remaining in the first half.

Indianapolis responded with a field goal before half on a possession that was extended by a pass interference call against Jason McCourty just before the two-minute warning.

“We had them stopped on third-and-10. We had a penalty called on us at the two-minute warning there before the half which caused the drive to continue,” Munchak said. “They got a field goal on that before the half on that. I thought we had a stop there if we don’t have that penalty, which I thought was a bad call. And then they came out and take it down the field at the beginning of the third quarter, score a touchdown, then we fumble and so they score 17 points, and our offense never gets on the field again. And that pretty much … they get the lead there 20-17. That’s where it (went) downhill.”

The Colts, who have made a habit of falling behind and bouncing back, opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard TD run by Donald Brown.

“They march down and get a score on us. We can’t have that,” Jurrell Casey said. “We started the game off strong, we’ve got to start the second half off strong and we’ve got to finish, but we didn’t do that.”

Alterraun Verner said, “if we could play better on one drive, it would be that drive.”

“That’s kind of what set the tempo for them, and then we had the fumble,” Verner said. “We didn’t find ways to make a play at the end, and that’s on defense, special teams and offense. Nobody to blame, but everybody on the team. We’re all responsible for that.”

Tennessee led 17-13 when Return specialist Devon Wylie, who made his Titans debut after being promoted from the practice squad because of an injury to Damian Williams, inadvertently bumped Craig Stevens during the ensuing kick return and Daniel Herron recovered the ball at the Tennessee 20-yard line.

“It was a left return, and the ball got too far to the right. I’m trying to get to the wedge and trying to crease it,” Wylie said. “I feel like I had the ball tight enough and I didn’t. I’ve just got to work on keeping the ball tighter. I’m trying to kick-start the season for me and help the team and it’s really unfortunate.”

Indianapolis took the lead for good two plays after the only turnover of the game when Andrew Luck faked a pass and ran for an 11-yard TD.

Tennessee had three offensive plays that netted 1 yard in the third quarter, compared to 22 plays for 120 yards and 17 points for Indy that included a 50-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with 1:27 left in the period for a 23-17 lead.

The Titans answered with a field goal by Rob Bironas early in the fourth quarter but Brown scored an 11-yard TD to put the Colts up 30-20 with 3:01 to go.

Delanie Walker catches his fifth touchdown of the season, but the Titans were unable to rally. Click here for the game's slideshow.

Ryan Fitzpatrick led a quick drive that he capped with a 19-yard TD pass to Delanie Walker with 1:54 remaining, but Tennessee was unable to recover an onside kick for the second time in five days.

“It’s frustrating to go through this six games where we’ve had leads or chances to win a game and we’re not doing it,” Alterraun Verner said. “If you look at the first half, we played outstanding. In the second half, we found a way to shoot ourselves in the foot again.”

CJ KEYS FAST START: Chris Johnson rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns on his first eight carries to give Tennessee a 14-0 edge with 4:06 left in the first quarter.

Johnson capped the Titans’ opening drive with a 30-yard touchdown run, his longest rush of the season, to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead. The run equaled his rushing output on 12 carries the previous game against Jacksonville.

The Titans followed with an 11-play, 68-yard drive that ended with three solid runs by Johnson. He used his speed to get to the outside for a gain of 5, then followed by aggressively finishing runs of 8 and 7 yards, pushing through a tackle and twisting his way into the end zone.

The Titans out-gained the Colts 148-4 in the first quarter, but Johnson was more concerned about the end result of the Titans’ fifth loss in their past six games.

“Up to this point, we’ve done enough talking. Talking is just getting old. We got to go out there and make plays for 60 minutes and stop turning these close wins and saying we could’ve won this one and could’ve won that one,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to go out there and win if we want to make it to the playoffs, and every loss we get it keeps getting slim to none as far as the playoffs. So, we’ve got to step up and make plays. We definitely know we let one slip away, but at the end of the day these games slipping away, that’s just getting old. We’ve just got to make plays.”

FITZ ON FIRE: Fitzpatrick, who made his third start as a Titan, had his strongest performance of the season. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 222 yards and set a new career high in completion percentage (78.6 percent). He finished with a passer rating of 111.6.

Fitzpatrick often connected on crossing routes to Kendall Wright and Walker early in the game and kept going back to those two players who accounted for 19 of Fitzpatrick’s completions. With Jake Locker on injured reserve and missing the rest of the season, the Titans are reworking the offense around the veteran’s skills and preferences.

“Yeah I think that the last two weeks, for whatever reason, I have (felt more comfortable),” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s more of a comfort level just with the guys in the huddle, being out there on the field again and I guess solidifying knowing my role and what it is now.  There’s a lot of different factors that go into it.  I obviously wish the last two games would have gone different at the end.  There’s more of a comfort level for me out there now than there was at the beginning of the year.”

10-FOR-10: Fitzpatrick targeted Walker 10 times, and the tight end who joined the Titans this offseason caught all 10 passes for 90 yards, setting career highs in a game in both categories.

Walker now has career highs of 39 catches, 403 yards and five touchdowns this season.

“It was basically a corner route to the back of the end zone and me and Ryan talked about if they played high, he was going to throw it low so I could flatten (the route),” Walker said of the TD. “It was a great play call by the offensive coordinator, putting us in a great situation.”

EJECT BUTTON?: The first field goal of the night by Bironas was set up by a roughing the passer and two unnecessary roughness penalties against the Colts on three consecutive plays.

On the third play of that sequence, Walker had his helmet ripped off by Erik Walden, who then head-butted Walker in the face. Walker said Walden should have been ejected, but the linebacker stayed in the game and had a sack and a tackle for loss in the second half.

“That’s the type the stuff we don’t need in this league,” Walker said. “He snatches my helmet off and head-butts me in the mouth but don’t get ejected. That’s the type of player he is. I ain’t mad at him. That’s what he did.”

INACTIVES FOR TENNESSEE: In addition to Williams, Brian Schwenke (ankle), Moise Fokou (knee), Tommie Campbell (shoulder), Zaviar Gooden (hamstring), Mike Otto and Lavar Edwards were inactive.

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