In week 3 of the NFL season, the Detroit Lions visited LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee to take on the Titans. Going into the game, Detroit was 1-1, while the Titans were 0-2, itching for their first win of the young season. It was a homecoming for Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, who was the Titans defensive coordinator from 2001-2008. Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Tulloch were also making their first trip back to Nashville since leaving to join the Lions. Detroit were the favorites going into the game; but that did not diminish the Titans' confidence. After getting off to a slow start, the team was looking for a big performance out of Jake Locker. Locker played outstanding, completing 29 of 42 pass attempts, throwing for 378 yards and two touchdowns.
Detroit was leading 6-3 in the first quarter, and with under a minute to go, Detroit was punting the ball back to the Titans. Darius Reynaud fielded the punt, then lateraled the ball across field to DB Tommie Campbell. Campbell then ran 65 yards with the ball all the way into the end zone. Tommie is one of the fastest guys on the team, and it sure showed on that play. This play shifted the momentum in favor of Tennessee heading into the second quarter. Early in the Titans' next drive, Locker fired a bullet into the chest of TE Jared Cook, who after the catch, broke away from two defenders and ran it into the end zone for a 61 yard touchdown reception.
By the end of the third quarter , Detroit cut the deficit to four after a 1 yard touchdown run by Mikel Leshoure. The Lions seemed to have the momentum switch to their side with two missed field goals by Titans kicker Rob Bironas. The fourth quarter is where things got very interesting. The Lions defense really stepped up in the second half, not allowing any points until halfway through the fourth quarter. After a 3 yard touchdown pass from Matt Stafford to Nate Burleson, the Lions led 27-20 with 6:53 remaining in the game. On the following kickoff, Darius Reynaud took the ball from 5 feet deep in the end zone and ran it back all the way for a touchdown with the help of a vicious block from rookie TE Taylor Thompson. This got the crowd back into the game, as well as the Tennessee Titans, knotting the score up at 27.
Akeem Ayers came up big late in the game, sacking Matt Stafford on a third and long. This gave the ball back to the Titans with under four minuets left to play. With 3:23 remaining on the clock, Locker threw a pass to Nate Washington who jumped in the air, and grabbed the ball over the defenders helmet and ran it for an amazing 71 yard touchdown completion. However, the Titans knew they had to get a stop on the Lions next possession. Stafford was marching his team down the field, until Tennessee made another big play. After a short pass to TE Brandon Pettigrew, cornerback Alterraun Verner then ripped the ball out of his hands and ran it back for a 72 yard return, putting the Titans ahead 14 with just under 1:20 left. Game over right?
With Tennessee up two touchdowns, they were in pretty good shape to go home with a victory. They just needed to play good defense, and the rest would take care of itself. While Verner was running back his fumble recovery, QB Matt Stafford pulled a muscle on the play. Hence, Detroit was forced to put in backup QB, veteran Shaun Hill. After getting the ball back, Detroit then drove down the field and scored a touchdown to make it 41-34 with 18 seconds left. This touchdown should of have been avoided after an Alterraun Verner interception that was called back due to a roughing the passer penalty on LB Akeem Ayers. Inevitably, the Lions lined up for the onside kick to try and get the ball back. The Lions successfully recovered the onside kick, and had one last chance to try and tie up the game. With 7 seconds left, Shaun Hill dropped back, moved around in the pocket a little bit, then stepped up right before the line of scrimmage and heaved the ball towards the end zone. Akeem Ayers then knocked the ball downwards; unfortunately, right into the hands of WR Titus Young, who then dove in the end zone from about a yard out. Unbelievable.
The Lions had all of the momentum going into overtime, and seemed like they were going to win because the Titans defense had no answer for their offense. Luckily, the Titans got the ball first in OT. Remember, with the new rules, each team gets a chance to have the ball. There is one exception however; if the first team that has the ball scores a touchdown, game over. In addition, If the first team that has the ball throws a pick six, game over as well. If neither of those situations take place, then the same rules that apply in college, apply in the NFL. The Titans looked very good on their opening drive in OT. Jake Locker was moving the ball downfield, putting the Titans in great shape to score. Nonetheless, Detroit was able to get a stop on third down, and force the Titans to kick a short field goal.
The Titans now lead 44-41, and Detroit has a chance to either tie the game with a field goal, or win the game with a touchdown. As a Titans fan, I was getting extremely nervous because the Lions offense was tearing up the Titans D in the second half. They also have arguably the best wideout in all of football, Calvin Johnson. When Detroit got the ball, they were moving downfield. First down after first down, the Lions were well in field goal range. They knew the worst that could of happened was they settle for a field goal. Detroit was at the Titans 8 yard line, and decided to go for it on fourth and one. DT Jurrell Casey bulldozed through the offensive line, and tackled Shaun Hill. When the play initially happened, everyone thought Hill was short of the first down. The refs brought out the chains and were completing a measurement to see if Hill reached the first down marker. When the ref pulled out the chain, everyone saw Hill was way short of the marker, and at that moment, LP Field erupted and the Titans would walk off winners. After the game, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said they had no intention of snapping the ball on fourth down. They were going to try and draw Tennessee offsides, but there was a miscommunication between the players.
There were many ups and downs for the Tennessee Titans in this game. Jake Locker had a career day, which is a huge step forward in his development as a starting quarterback. Jared Cook played great, but sat out the second half due to a shoulder injury. Titans head coach Mike Munchak expects Cook to be back next week. As a whole, the Titans offense was great and made some very nice strides. The defense played very well in the first half, only allowing nine points; but struggled in the second half giving up 32 points. Akeem Ayers was very effective in this game, as was Alterraun Verner. This young defense learned a lot on Sunday, and hopefully the Titans can get MLB Colin McCarthy back for next weeks contest at Houston. The Titans got some momentum going, but if they want to have a chance to win at Houston next week, their offense has to play like it did against Detroit, and their defense has to play much better.