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Notebook: Titans Momentum Slips Free

Posted Oct 6, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans overcame a slow start but didn’t finish strongly enough in a 26-17 loss to the Chiefs Sunday at LP Field.

Kansas City (5-0) scored the first 13 points and the final 13 that sandwiched a second-half rally by Tennessee (3-2) that was built on several improvisations by Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started in place of Jake Locker (hip and knee injuries). The off-and-on scoring pattern was similar to rounds of rains that passed over the stadium.

Bernard Pollard records his second interception as a Titan.
Click here for a slideshow from Sunday's game against the Chiefs.

The Titans appeared to be seizing momentum in the third and early fourth quarters. Safety Bernard Pollard intercepted Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith to give the Titans the ball at the Kansas City 42-yard line, and Tennessee took a 17-13 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter when Fitzpatrick scrambled from nine yards out, eluded linebacker Justin Houston and belly flopped as he crossed the goal line.

“It hurts because you see the direction the game was going. I don’t care how bad the first half looked. It doesn’t matter. The momentum and everything was in our corner,” Pollard said. “I just think as a team we have to learn how to step on their throat and keep our foot there. We didn’t do that at all. We beat ourselves. The things we did earlier in the game came back to haunt us, so we’ve got to be smarter.”

Tennessee forced Kansas City to punt on the ensuing possession, but the Titans’ offense hit the wall by going three-and-punt to end one series and suffered interceptions on the first play of the next and the fourth play on the following series.

The first possession opened with a 9-yard completion to Kenny Britt but couldn’t connect with Damian Williams on second-and-1 or Britt on third-and-1, and Tennessee had to punt.

Kansas City claimed a 20-17 lead on the following possession, which was extended by an unnecessary roughness penalty against Moise Fokou, who hit Smith on a scrambling play. Smith was upright and going forward but stepped toward the sideline as Fokou came in.

“The way I looked at it, I thought he was still in,” Fokou said. “I was going full-speed, left my feet, and I don’t know how to stop mid-air, so it was one of those things where you’ve got to look at the film and see if it was a good play or not.”

Fokou said he was “shocked” by the call but wanted to review it before saying whether it was good or bad. Tennessee appeared shell-shocked the rest of the way, with Jamaal Charles scoring the go-ahead score five plays later.

Marcus Cooper wrestled the ball away from Nate Washington on Fitzpatrick’s next pass, which set up Ryan Succop’s third field goal of the day for a 23-17 lead with 4:15 remaining in the game.

Fitzpatrick connected with Delanie Walker for 7 and Kendall Wright for 12 on third-and-3 before trying to hit Wright on a deep ball on the next play. That pass, however, bounced off Wright and into the arms of Quintin Demps, who returned it 35 yards to set up a 48-yarder by Succop that made it a two-score game.

‘TOUGH CALL’: The penalty against Fokou is a judgment call, and one that teammates thought was tough to take.

“It’s a third-down play. I know in Fokou’s mind he’s saying, ‘Make sure this guy does not get the first down,’ and Alex Smith in the past games, he’s dove and tried to get those first downs because he’s that type of quarterback, so it’s a tough situation for him,” Alterraun Verner said. “I know what he’s thinking. He’s like, ‘I’ve got to get him out,’ and it just so happened that the referees thought it was too close. That’s why it was called the way it was. It’s no fault on the referees. That’s the way they felt, that’s the way they saw it.”

Pollard said “the quarterback wasn’t out yet, but the way the rules and everything is going, if a guy gets to the white line, they’re going to call a penalty, especially on a quarterback.”

“(Smith) is somebody who’s diving and sliding late and doing all that other stuff. It’s a gray area. It’s something that I think needs to be corrected in the rules because it’s hard for defensive players,” Pollard added. “Having said that, you have to look at the situation we were in. You’ve got to let that go. The guy was two yards shy, but we make mistakes. That hurt us. It hurts when you keep drives going, but we’ve got a chance to fight again next week.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he’d like to see more consistency on those types of plays, bringing up a play in Week 2 in Houston on which Locker slid out of bounds but was hit without drawing a penalty.

GOAL-TO-GO WOES: Tennessee went 1-for-3 on goal-to-go efficiency, getting stuffed for no gain on four attempts from the Kansas City 1-yard line on its first trip inside the 10, settling for a field goal by Rob Bironas on its next and scoring one touchdown on the scramble by Fitzpatrick.  

The Titans’ first trip inside the 10 came in the second quarter with Tennessee trailing 10-0. The Titans moved the ball from their own 35 to the Chiefs’ 1 with a couple of short passes, a game-long 37-yard run by Jackie Battle and a 15-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Walker.

Battle was stuffed for no gain on first down, Fitzpatrick caught his own pass that was intended for Walker but deflected on second, Fitzpatrick was tackled while trying to scramble on third, and Battle came inches away from reaching the goal-line on fourth.

“We had four tries to get it in and couldn’t get it in. That’s something we’re going to have to fix,” Battle said. “Down on the goal-line, sometimes a back is going to have to beat one or two. We can’t block them all down there for the most part. I was driving and giving everything I had. I think someone tried to give me a push at the end, but we just couldn’t punch it in.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he opted to go for it because of the way the defense was preventing Kansas City from moving the ball, but the Chiefs instantly moved out of the bad field position with a 41-yard pass from Smith to Donnie Avery.

SENSABAUGH RECOVERS FUMBLE: Coty Sensabaugh recorded his first career takeaway when he recovered a fumble by Jamaal Charles that was forced by Titans safety Michael Griffin after a 6-yard run.

After the ball was knocked free, it eluded Titans cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner and Bowe when it scooted toward the Titans’ sideline. Sensabaugh, however, was able to fall on the ball before he was pushed out of bounds.

VERNER’S TAKEAWAY STREAK SNAPPED: Verner, who had three takeaways last weekend and entered the game with at least one takeaway in each game this season, came close to a couple of passes but was unable to extend his streak.

“I should have caught both of them. It’s no excuses on my part. I’ve got to pull those down and help this team,” Verner said. “It’s very frustrating on my end that I wasn’t able to pull some of those down. I’m not a perfect player and will never be a perfect player but I’ve got to fix that, see what I did wrong, and where my hands were positioned and try to make that play next time.”

STREAK WITHOUT A TURNOVER HALTED: The Titans became the second team during the Super Bowl era to play the first four games of the season without a turnover, but that streak was stopped early against Kansas City.

After the Titans forced the Chiefs to punt on the opening possession, Williams inadvertently kicked the ball as it hit the ground near the Tennessee 22-yard line. The ball went all the way back to the end zone where it was recovered by Cooper for a Chiefs touchdown and 7-0 lead with 11:40 remaining in the first quarter.

Williams was charged with a fumble on the play, and the two interceptions gave Tennessee three turnovers on the day.

BANGED UP: Sensabaugh suffered a concussion, Patrick Bailey and Zaviar Gooden suffered hamstring injuries, and Derrick Morgan suffered a shoulder injury.  

INACTIVES: The Titans were without Locker, Shonn Greene (knee), Sammie Hill (ankle) and Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring), who were inactive along with Michael Preston, Brian Schwenke and Byron Stingily.

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