Matt Hasselbeck’s last throw was one he’d like to have back. Based on the first 33, through, he and the Tennessee Titans have reason to look forward to the next 15 games with optimism about their passing attack.
Hasselbeck completed 21 of 34 pass attempts in the Titans’ 16-14 season-opening loss at Jacksonville on Sunday. The number of completions and yards were the second-highest Week 1 totals of his career.
Only in 2009, when he went 25 of 36 for 279 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a Seattle Seahawks’ victory over St. Louis did he fare better.
The last time a Titans quarterback completed at least 20 in an opener was when Kerry Collins did it in 2008. Before that, it was Steve McNair in 2003.
“The bottom line is that we had a chance at the end to give Rob [Bironas] a chance to win the game,” Hasselbeck said following the contest. “We didn’t execute. That’s on me. I have to make it happen there.”
Hasselbeck drove the Titans from their own 3 to the 46 in 1:22, without the benefit of a timeout. Then, with 23 seconds to play, he threw an interception (his only one of the contest) that guaranteed just the second 0-1 start in the last five years.
“I got a little greedy,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened. It was a matchup situation and the play that was called, I felt, could end the game. It didn’t go down, obviously, like I envisioned.”
Most of the rest of the day, he showed exactly why the Titans focused on him at the start of the free agency period.
Even without the benefit of an offseason, his completion percentage (61.8) was well above the team’s average for any of the past three seasons. His passer rating (93.1) was better than any of his final five regular season contests with Seattle and well above his career rating of 82.2.
Although running back Chris Johnson, the team’s leader in receptions each of the last two years, caught six passes (tied for the team-high), the majority of Hasselbeck’s completions (12, in fact) went to wide receivers. Nate Washington also caught six, which already was more than he had in any game in 2010.
Tennessee has finished in the bottom third of the league for passing offense each of the last five years but started this one in the top half for yards and average per attempt (7.7).
“I am feeling very confident about this team,” wide receiver Kenny Britt (five catches, 136 yards, two touchdowns) said. “We just started a little late [Sunday]. … In the second half, once we started moving there was no stopping us.”
Seven of the Titans’ 10 longest plays in the game came in the second half, six in the fourth quarter. That included a 9-yard scramble by Hasselbeck — his only rushing attempt of the contest — that started the final drive.
“We had a lot of frustration early on but we had to learn how to manage that,” Hasselbeck said. “We couldn’t stay on the field and couldn’t convert third down. We were a little sloppy. We played 30 minutes of football instead of 60.
“We had a chance but that’s not good enough.”