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Titans Battle Through Injuries While Eying Playoffs

Posted Dec 12, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matt Hasselbeck, if healthy, will start Sunday, but Titans coach Mike Munchak said Monday that coaches and medical staff are in “wait and see” mode on the veteran quarterback and several other players.

Hasselbeck suffered a calf strain in the second quarter Sunday against the Saints and underwent an MRI Monday.

“He’s walking around pretty good,” Munchak said. “He’s sore but like most things we’ll talk about, it’s more waiting to see how he is until tomorrow and Wednesday. We haven’t heard anything yet but we’re assuming it’s on the mild side.”

Linebacker Akeem Ayers (shoulder), Gerald McRath (ankle and knee) and running back Javon Ringer (hand) also underwent examinations Monday. The team will also monitor reserve linebacker and special teamer Patrick Bailey, who missed Sunday with a hamstring injury. Munchak said linebacker Barrett Ruud will be questionable to doubtful this week.

Rookie Jake Locker replaced Hasselbeck and nearly led the Titans’ offense to an improbable comeback in the fourth quarter, but took a sack on the final play of the game. Locker finished 13-for-29 passing for 282 yards with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington with 5:58 left in the game. Locker hit Washington for another 40-yard gain to the New Orleans’ five-yard-line with less than 30 seconds left.

Washington, who missed practice last week with a high ankle sprain, was also having difficulty with back spasms. He made himself get up so the Titans could stop the clock with seven seconds remaining, then hobbled to the sideline with help from Chris Johnson.

New Orleans denied Tennessee on two straight pass plays and held on for the 22-17 win, despite running 75 offensive plays compared to 55 offensive plays run by Tennessee.

Despite the loss, the Titans (7-6) remain in the hunt for a Wild Card spot in the playoffs, but they need to win their final three games against AFC South foes Indianapolis (0-13), Jacksonville (4-9) and Houston (10-3), which clinched its first division title Sunday with a late comeback win at Cincinnati (7-6).

Munchak complimented Locker’s composure during the comeback attempt but said Hasselbeck, a 13-year veteran, will receive the nod.

“We’re in the middle of a playoff run and we have to win these three games,” Munchak said. “If Matt’s healthy, then Matt will quarterback us. As far as Jake, he’ll have plenty of time to be our guy, so we wouldn’t put him in just to gain experience.”

The Titans showed tenacity and determination in playing through and adjusting to the injuries on offense, defense and special teams. Washington had a career-best 130 receiving yards on six receptions.

“This is a team that’s not going to give up,” Washington said. “Six minutes left, down two touchdowns. The mentality could have slid, but everybody in the offensive huddle, defensive huddle and special teams kept believing in something bigger than that.”

The Titans were also without starting cornerback Jason McCourty (concussion), but held the Saints (10-3) below their scoring average. Munchak said McCourty received medical clearance Monday, but the team will monitor his progression this week.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan said the Titans must build on what they did Sunday and finish the season strong. In addition to winning out, Tennessee also needs the New York Jets (8-5) to lose at least one of its last three games.

“I don’t know if proud is the word on how we came back,” Cortland Finnegan said. “The fact is we go out there and try to win every Sunday. The fans can be proud of us for making a comeback, but we expect to win around here and if we don’t, it’s hard on us. We want to know why we didn’t win. So proud is not the word we are looking for.

“We have three games left and we’ll take them one at a time,” Finnegan said. “You win and take care of business. You know, 10-6 looks good but you have to get them one at a time.”

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