There have been many good and great games at L.P. Field since it became home to the Titans in 1999, Sunday against the Pittsburg Steelers was not one of those games.
The Titans played giving hosts to the visitors by collecting 11 penalties and turning the ball over seven times on their way to a 19-11 loss.
That final score is not indicative of the way this game played and just how many mistakes the Titans offense would make on the day.
The Titans special teams would give Pittsburgh a welcome gift on the opening kickoff when Mewelde Moore handed off to Antonio Brown on a reverse and Brown would take it 89 yards for a Steelers touchdown, just :14 seconds into the game. It was a lead that the Steelers would never relinquish.
On the ensuing kickoff the Titans would keep on giving as rookie kickoff returner Marc Mariani would remind us all of the week 2 debacle against the Jets last season in New York where special teams plays and turnovers would cost the team a sure win. Mariani, after a 34 yard return to the Titans 40 would lose the ball on the hit and Stevenson Sylvester would recover for Pittsburgh.
The lone bright spot on the day was the play of the Titans defense as after just 3 plays by the Steelers offense, the Titans would force a turnover of their own. Linebacker Will Witherspoon, coming on a blitz off the left side of the Steelers line, hitting quarterback Dennis Dixon and knocking the ball loose where Dave Ball recovered at the Pittsburgh 42 yard line.
Seven plays later the Titans would get on the board after Rob Bironas connected on a 21 yard field goal to cut the Steelers lead to 7-3. It would be as close as the Titans would come until the closing minutes of the game.
The Steelers early Christmas in Nashville would continue throughout the first half as mistake after mistake would finally doom the Titans.
A holding call on Titans center Eugene Amano would wipe out an 85 yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson, and effectively stop any chance last season’s NFL Offensive MVP had of reaching 100 yards for the 12th straight game.
In all the Titans would commit eleven penalties for 72 yards to add to the turnover woes.
Vince Young was also very giving, throwing two interceptions on the afternoon, the first coming in the first quarter when Young, missed a wide open tight end Bo Scaife running a crossing route at the Steelers one, instead Young went deep across the middle of the end zone for Nate Washington, the pass was intercepted by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu to stop the Titans only real touchdown threat of the first half.
The second half would prove only slightly better for the Titans as the giving continued.
Vince Young was benched in favor of Kerry Collins after Young’s third interception of the game. Chris Johnson would commit a rare fumble and Kerry Collins would be intercepted on his first series of the day to tie the record for turnovers in a single game. That record was set against Cleveland at L.P. Field in 2000.
Head Coach Jeff Fisher, when asked after the game about the decision to bench Young was quick to point out that there was no quarterback controversy.
“ I made a decision to get a spark and go with Kerry (Collins). Vince (Young) is still our starter, he will be back next week against the Giants, “ said Fisher. “There is no quarterback controversy. I just needed to make that decision. I know it was the best decision for the team.”
Young was also asked about the decision to remove him in place of Collins.
“He’s the head coach. He is the head coach.”
Young continued when asked about his frustration of being removed.
“Oh yeah. I’m definitely disappointed, but at the same time he is the head coach.”
Collins who would lead the only touchdown drive of the day when he connected with receiver Nate Washington for a 2 yards score with just 1:03 left to play in the fourth quarter, and would get a chance for a game tying touchdown a two-point conversion after a successful Rob Bironas onside kick gave the Titans one last chance.
“We kept fight,” said Collins. “That was one thing. We had an opportunity to make it interesting and guys kept playing and you got to in that situation. But it’s unfortunate that we had put ourselves in that situation.
The Titans (1-1) will attempt to bounce back next Sunday afternoon, when they make their first road trip of the season to face the New York Giants (1-0 pending the outcome of their Sunday night game with Indianapolis) in the Meadowlands.