If nothing else, Tennessee Titans players and coaches now have reason to believe.
Anyone who saw Sunday’s 44-41 overtime victory over the Detroit Lions knows that anything is possible in an NFL contest. That feeling can only be that much stronger in those who took part in the contest.
Playoffs? Super Bowl? Why not?
Sure, one dramatic victory does not provide a quick fix for everything that is wrong with these Titans. Rational thought reveals many more reasons to worry about their prospects than to revel in their potential.
Then again, if a team can score 14 points in 18 seconds capped by a Hail Mary with their backup quarterback in the game, surely Chris Johnson can become an effective runner again.
Yes, Johnson had another miserable day (14 carries, 24 yards). Yes, when it mattered most – overtime – he carried only twice and lost eight yards each time. Yes, he has not scored a touchdown this season. Yes, he has been outgained by quarterback Jake Locker in each game.
We know now, though, that anything is possible.
Just like if a team can be the NFL’s lowest scoring through the first two weeks and then set a record with five touchdown plays of more than 60 yards, then it makes sense that a defense which has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete more than three out of every four throws can figure out a way (or ways) to defend the pass.
Give the Titans credit for trying in this one. After New England’s Tom Brady and San Diego’s Philip Rivers combined to complete 74.6 percent of their passes in the first two weeks, Tennessee replaced free safety Robert Johnson with veteran Jordan Babineaux. That allowed Michael Griffin to play in space more, which is where he is best.
It didn’t work of course. Detroit’s two quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill connected on 43 of 55 passes (78.2 percent) and raised the overall opposition success rate to 76.3 percent. The great Calvin Johnson was limited to one catch for six yards in the first half but eventually got open enough that he caught 10 for 164 and a touchdown.
But maybe the next move makes the difference because, as we have been saying, anything is possible.
Perhaps the Titans can figure out their issues on run defense too. It is true that Detroit’s Mikel Leshoure became the second back this season to gain 100 yards or more against them, but then again a quarterback – Hill, in this case – can play so heroically when forced into action by an injury and then make a colossal goof and not know what his coach wants when the game is on the line.
In short, the Titans have been miserable on run defense this season. Even the game they did not allow a 100-yard rusher, the San Diego Chargers racked up 148 as a team. At its current pace Tennessee will allow more than 2,400 rushing yards, which would be the most since 1985.
The defense did stop Hill on the quarterback sneak that ended the game, though. He wasn’t supposed to even run the play but once he did he needed to gain less than a yard, which he did not.
The sooner they sort out these situations – and others – the better. The Titans already trail the Houston Texans by three games in the AFC South with a trip to Houston up next.
A loss next Sunday means a three-game deficit after four games. It certainly is a state of affairs they’d like to avoid but if it happens it does not mean that a division title is impossible.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll play great and beat the team widely considered the division’s best.
After this Sunday, anything is possible.