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Notebook: Turnovers Cost Titans

Posted Nov 10, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Four turnovers — and the 17 points allowed off them — loomed large for the Titans in a 29-27 to the Jaguars Sunday at LP Field.

Tennessee’s Chris Johnson had a solid run on the first play of the game, but Jacksonville LB Paul Posluszny forced and recovered a fumble to give the Jaguars the ball at the Tennessee 19-yard line.

The Jaguars took advantage of the prime field position with three carries by Maurice Jones-Drew, including a 6-yard score to take a 7-0 lead with 13:29 left in the first quarter.

“You can’t turn the ball over,” Titans safety Michael Griffin said. “When we turn it over, the defense has to go out and hold them to field goals or whatever it may be. We’ve just got to do all the right things, and that’s something we’re not doing.”

The Titans (4-5) performed well on “sudden change” plays the week before at St. Louis, but failure to do so quickly swung momentum to the Jaguars (1-8), who never trailed.

“That first drive of the game, we should have come up with a big stop and changed the field right back for our offense,” Jurrell Casey said. “It’s sad we let them get up on us and that was a hard place for us to have to fight from.”

After allowing 19 yards on the first three carries, the Titans improved their fits against the run and held the Jaguars to 35 yards on 27 carries the rest of the game.

“That was a small area that we were able to tweak and get fixed quickly, but outside of that, we can’t turn the ball over,” Griffin said. “We’ve got to get more turnovers. If the offense makes a mistake, we’ve got to correct a mistake and vice-versa, if we make a mistake, the offense has to correct it. In order to be a good football team, we’ve got to play hand-in-hand.”

Jake Locker, who left the game with a foot injury, threw an interception early in the second quarter that set up Josh Scobee’s second field goal for a 13-0 lead with 10:47 left in the first half.

“It didn’t matter what they were doing,” Derrick Morgan said. “We were killing ourselves and let them in the game from the start and gave them hope.”

With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Locker tried to play through the injury he suffered on an option run, but was unable to hand the ball off to Johnson on the next play(second-and-2), and Jacksonville recovered it at their 17-yard line, preventing at least a field goal attempt by Tennessee. Locker watched the remainder of the game from the sidelines in a walking boot and with crutches.

Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Locker and led a touchdown drive capped with a pass to Taylor Thompson (his first target and catch this season and first career TD) late in the first half. Fitzpatrick finished 22-of-33 passing for 264 yards with two TD passes and a 4-yard run for a score, but was stripped by DB Will Blackmon on a blitz for a sack, fumble recovery and 21-yard return for a touchdown that put Jacksonville up 29-20 with 2:32 left in the game.

Tennessee rallied with a 14-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Delanie Walker with 40 seconds remaining but was unable to recover the onside kick. Walker tied his career high for receptions in a season (29) and set a career high with his fourth TD catch of the year, but that didn’t cut through his disappointment in the loss.

“We played like we were 0-8. We never played our type of football,” Walker said. “You can’t come in when it’s two minutes left in the game and try to win games, not with a team like the Jaguars. That’s terrible.”

Alterraun Verner records his fifth interception of the season and 11th of his career.
Click here for a slideshow from the game.

McCARTHY, VERNER NOTCH INTERCEPTIONS: Colin McCarthy, who made his third consecutive start in place of Moise Fokou, intercepted Chad Henne in the second quarter to give the Titans the ball at the Jacksonville 34, but that possession ended on the fumble by Locker. It was the first interception of the season and third career pick for McCarthy.

Alterraun Verner intercepted a throw by Henne early in the fourth quarter and returned it to the Jacksonville 26 with Tennessee trailing 20-10, but the Titans had to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Rob Bironas after gaining just seven yards on three plays.

It was the fifth interception of the season for Verner, who has 11 in his four-year career.

FILLING IN AT PR/KR: Receiver Damian Williams suffered a leg injury during a punt return in the second quarter and was replaced by Verner in both roles. It was the second game in which Williams had been tasked with the duties after the Titans waived Darius Reynaud.

“It was definitely unfortunate with Damian, and I was out there blocking for him when it happened,” Verner said. “It was something you did not want to see. My eyes got real big when I saw that happen. That was the last thing I wanted to see for Damian. He was doing so well on offense and at return, so my prayers go out to him.”

Verner returned one kickoff 17 yards and one punt 11 yards. He correctly let one punt soar over his head for a touchback and thought he had done so again in the fourth quarter but officials ruled LaRoy Reynolds avoided touching the goal line with his foot as he downed the ball at the Tennessee 1.

Titans coach Mike Munchak challenged the call, but the play stood after video review.

“I thought he touched the line during the live action. I was trying to prove it to the referee the whole time. I even tried to show him the divot, but it could have been a million of them,” Verner said. “From my angle, it looked like it was clear. He told me that he thought it hovered over it, which I could see him thinking that too because it was that close and that was a call he made, so I can’t say he made the wrong decision, but it was that close.”

Two plays later officials flagged Chance Warmack for holding against former Titan Sen’Derrick Marks in the end zone, resulting in a safety that gave Jacksonville a 22-13 lead with 7:44 left in the game.

‘GREAT FOOTBALL PLAY’ AND PENALTY: The Jaguars received the ball to open the second half and took a 20-7 lead on an eight-play, 79 yard TD drive that benefitted from a roughing the passer penalty against Bernard Pollard on a third-and-8 play that was an incompletion from Henne to Jones-Drew.

Pollard jumped high into the air to pressure the pass and his stomach hit Henne’s helmet.

“When the quarterback is going to throw the ball, you’ve got to try to make a play,” Pollard said. “The ref said it was a great football play, my stomach hit his helmet, so I don’t know how you want us to play football. I understand these guys are getting paid a lot of money, but at the end of the day, there’s two teams out there and we’ve got to go play ball.”

Pollard was also flagged during the drive for a late hit on a scramble by Henne, but that penalty was offset by a holding call against Jacksonville. The Titans also allowed a third-and-13 to be converted three plays after the roughing the passer call.

SPENCER AT CENTER: Veteran offensive lineman Chris Spencer replaced Brian Schwenke (ankle) at center. Spencer had appeared in each game this season on special teams, but it was his first action on the offensive line this season. He made a key block on the TD run by Fitzpatrick. It was Schwenke’s third career start.

THREE SACKS: Casey, Morgan and Mike Martin each recorded sacks of Henne, and Morgan led the Titans with three quarterback hits.

SHORT WEEK: Tennessee hosts AFC South-leading Indianapolis (6-3) on Thursday Night Football. The Colts lost 38-8 at home to the Rams Sunday, but the Titans missed an opportunity to gain a game in the standings.

“We’ve got to get it in gear. We’ve got a quick turnaround, and I don’t know how guys are going to take this, but that’s some bull,” Walker said. “We’ve got to get ready, but this one is going to hurt. We lose to Jacksonville, at home, a team that was 0-8. I mean, come on.”

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