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Notebook: Titans Start Fast, Falter at Finish

Posted Dec 9, 2012

Tennessee got the start it wanted, but not the finish in a 27-23 loss at Indianapolis on Sunday.

The Titans (4-9) built a 20-7 halftime lead, but the Colts (9-4) rallied with an offensive and defensive touchdown in the third quarter to claim their first lead. Tennessee reclaimed a 23-21 lead in the fourth quarter with a field goal by Rob Bironas after a 16-play, 73-yard drive stalled at the Indianapolis 2-yard line.

The Colts answered on their next possession with a 53-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri, who added a 40-yarder with 3:48 remaining.

“Well I’ll just say it’s another very disappointing loss for us,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We played a good, solid first half in a lot of ways and played to how we thought we were able to. They did a nice job to open the second half, obviously had many chances to stop them on third down but they made plays, and the turnovers are just things we cannot do.”

The Titans scored a touchdown on their first possession, efficiently moving 80 yards in nine plays and four minutes, 50 seconds. Second year quarterback Jake Locker, who made his first career start against the AFC South rival Colts, capped the drive with an 18-yard throw to tight end Jared Cook, who grabbed the ball with a twisting leap and landed on his back in the end zone.

Locker went 6-for-6 passing for 53 yards and added a career-long 32-yard run on a scramble on the opening drive. He finished 22-for-35 for 262 yards but suffered with an interception in the third quarter and fourth quarter that both occurred inside Tennessee’s 35-yard line and yielded 10 points for Indianapolis.

The Titans limited the Colts to 4-for-12 on third down conversions for the game, but Indianapolis strung together all three of its second-half conversions on the opening possession of the third quarter. Rookie QB Andrew Luck found veteran Reggie Wayne for a gain of 12 on third-and-9 and Wayne again for 20 on third-and-11. Delone Carter scored from 1 yard on third-and-goal.

The teams swapped punts, but Indianapolis was able to pin Tennessee at its own 1 after officials didn’t flag a false start by Colts players.

Locker threw toward Nate Washington on the following play, but Cassius Vaughn jumped the route, picked off the pass cleanly and returned it three yards for the touchdown that put the Colts up 21-20 with 5:36 left in the third quarter.

“It was one that I shouldn’t have thrown,” Locker said. “I should be able to handle that position. I didn’t think it was going to be a roll corner like that, and it was.”

Munchak said calling a QB sneak in that situation instead of having an option would have been a safer plan.

Locker said it was tough to take their third straight loss, but said the Titans “just have to keep working hard” for their final three games of this season and beyond.

“It’s hard to keep saying it and not have the outcome you want,” Locker said. “You just have to keep working hard and preparing and doing everything you can to be successful when you get in those situations.”

WITHERSPOON NABS PICK SIX: Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon scored his third career touchdown when he returned an interception of Luck 40 yards.

Luck felt pressure from Derrick Morgan, who recorded one sack and four quarterback hits, and tried to throw the ball away, but Witherspoon was in the right spot, snagged the ball and returned it 40 yards to give the Titans a 17-7 lead with 4:40 left in the first half.

Officials reviewed the play, and although it appeared Luck’s knee hit the ground after contact from Morgan in television replays, the ruling on the field stood.

BRITT DELIVERS SEASON BESTS: Titans receiver Kenny Britt turned in his strongest statistical game of the season, recording season highs of eight catches and 143 yards.

Britt’s day included a pair of 46-yard receptions that set up a pair of field goals by Bironas in the second quarter. Both grabs were impressive, but the encore act outdid the first effort because Britt used just his left hand and because his right arm was being held on a play that would have resulted in pass interference had the pass been incomplete.

It was Britt’s most robust outing since he made nine catches for 135 yards in Week 2 of the 2011 season (one week before he tore his ACL and MCL, costing him the rest of that year).

KLUG DOUBLES DOWN: Second year defensive tackle Karl Klug recorded two sacks within three plays on one Colts possession. Klug dropped Luck for a loss of six on a first-and-10 play from the Indianapolis 39, and for a loss of 10 on third-and-7 from the 43 to force a punt by Pat McAfee.

FIRST INT FOR AFALAVA: Titans safety Al Afalava recorded his first career interception to end the first half. Indianapolis attempted a Hail Mary from its own 47 with five seconds remaining and Afalava dropped deep, caught the ball and landed in the end zone to end the opening half.

Afalava joined the Titans this offseason after being out of football in 2011 and playing four games with the Colts in 2010.

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