Colin McCarthy didn't have to ask who was responsible for Indianapolis Colts running back Vick Ballard on the final play Sunday.
“I was matched up with the running back on the play and he scored," the Tennessee Titans middle linebacker said. "I’ll take responsibility for that.”
Roughly four minutes into overtime, a Colts' drive headlined by running back Donald Brown repeatedly gashing the Titans' defensive front, concluded when rookie quarterback Andrew Luck connected with Ballard on a 16-yard fake toss/screen pass that found the end zone.
“That was definitely something different,” Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “Fake toss, roll back and then throw back to the toss guy. I’ve never seen that play before ever. That was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that. It definitely worked.”
According to interim Indianapolis coach Bruce Arians, the play was called "fake-toss-39-taxi-naked-right-screen-left." To the Titans and the sellout crowd at LP Field it simply was the end.
Tennessee's defense, which all day embodied the "bend don't break" mantra, broke down after Ballard caught the screen pass that narrowly eluded the grasp of Titans' defensive end Kamerion Wimbley.
“I was thinking interception and touchdown," Wimbley said. "But I couldn’t have caught it. It was just too far out of reach.”
The final minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime cast a dark shadow on a day that began well and showed promise.
Until the Colts’ drive in overtime, the Titans held Luck and company in check for the most part. While the Colts did register 132 rushing yards, they had did not find the end zone until there 3:28 to play in regulation.
“Defensively we controlled the football game.” safety Jordan Babineaux said. "That's unacceptable as a defense [letting the game slip away], especially when you have that kind of lead and that kind of cushion."
Linebacker Akeem Ayers, who nearly provided the Titans with an opportunity to win the game in regulation with a controversial strip/fumble call late in the fourth quarter, echoed Babineaux's sentiment.
"Everyone is pretty upset with the loss," he said. "Everyone felt we should have won this game and it just leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. So when we get back to work this week, everyone is going to be ready."
And ready the Titans must be as the 6-1 Bears come to Nashville next Sunday, fresh off a nail-biting 23-22 victory over the Carolina Panthers behind a 41-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould as time expired.
Titans coach Mike Munchak insists that there are positives to be taken, even from a disappointing loss.
"We'll look at the tape and know we've got to improve quite a few things," he said. "It'll be disappointing when we see all the plays that we probably could have made that would have made a difference in the game."
McCarthy, perhaps more so than other Titans' defensive players, knows exactly what he will see when they watch the final play.