DENVER — Call it a Mile High Mistake-fest.
The Tennessee Titans, hoping to make a Monday night splash before the viewing nation, instead drowned in pool of mistakes, wasting a career night from quarterback Vince Young in the process, in losing 34-20 to the Denver Broncos.
The Titans dug themselves an early 14-0 hole against the Broncos, thanks to a defensive breakdown, followed by a special teams collapse and could never climb the mountain in the Mile High City.
“It seemed like every time we took a step in closing the gap, they widened it again,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “They made a lot of plays and we did not. Dropped passes, missed tackles, foolish penalties, turnovers against a team like Denver does not give you a chance to win the ballgame.”
Young, who passed for a career-best 305 yards in completing 26 of 41 passes, also rushed for a season-high 74 yards and tried to lead the Titans back into the game, despite the team’s many miscues, missed tackles and misgivings. Many of those rush yards came when Young made the player designed to contain him miss in the open field.
“I really had a good week of practice,” Young said. “I was just trying to do whatever it takes to get that first down. … If they’re doing a good job of covering our receivers, and have a guy spying me, I feel like one-on-one I’m going to win that battle.”
Young’s numbers could have been much better, as the Titans’ receivers dropped at least four passes that appeared to be catchable balls, including three that would have gone for big gains.
“[He was] just scrambling around making plays with feet and making plays with his arm,” receiver Justin Gage said. “He was doing everything he needed to do in order to put us in a position to win. And as receivers and playmakers, we had some dropped balls that killed us in tough situations.”
The mistakes on offense didn’t hurt nearly as much as some of the crucial errors defensively that cropped up for the second week in a row.
“Plays that need to be made are there, and we are just not making them,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
From the first play, it appeared that it would be a long night for the defense, as Selvin Young ran nearly untouched for eight yards on Denver’s first offensive snap. Selvin Young ran on four of Denver’s first five plays. Then, former Vanderbilt star Jay Cutler capped the six-play, 80-yard march with a 48-yard strike to Brandon Stokley, who broke free from safety Chris Hope when Cutler scrambled right and outran the Titans secondary into the end zone with 5:13 to play for a quick 7-0 lead.
Like Young, Cutler enjoyed an outstanding night, completing 16 of 21 passes for 200 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
After the Titans went three and out, Tennessee’s special teams had a breakdown, allowing Glenn Martinez to go 80 yards to make the score 14-0 Broncos at the 3:33 mark of the first quarter.
Young’s play was the only real encouraging part for the Titans in the game, as he got into a smooth rhythm in the first half and kept Tennessee in the game, despite several dropped passes by his receivers.
“Vince played a very good game tonight. He ran around and made plays and kept us in the ballgame. We just couldn’t catch up, but obviously, I was pleased at the way he played,” Fisher said.
The struggling signal-caller completed 15 of 22 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown and added 41 yards rushing on seven attempts in the first half.
Tennessee’s first scoring drive came almost completely via its quarterback, who took the team 65 yards in nine plays with his arm and legs. Young hit Brandon Jones for a 21-yard touchdown pass. In the drive, Young ran three times for 20 yards, completed 4 of 4 passes for 55 yards and also overcame two penalties on the march.
Denver answered that drive, however, tacking on a 21-yard Jason Elam field goal after a pass interference call on Cortland Finnegan of 37 yards against Stokley that gave Denver the ball at the Titans 11.
Young drove Tennessee to the Broncos 27, but LenDale White fumbled the ball, opening the door for another Denver scoring drive. Elam cashed in from 39 yards out to push the Broncos lead back to 13 points with 1:51 to play.
The Titans managed three more points when Rob Bironas made a 56-yard field goal with 9 seconds to play in the half. Bironas, who has now made 16 field goals in a row, missed badly on his first attempt, but the Broncos called timeout just before the snap.
Denver appeared to put the game away early in the third quarter as Cutler hit Brandon Marshall on a 41-yard pass to go up 27-10. On that play, Calvin Lowry closed first on the ball, then on Marshall, but came up with neither, as Marshall scored when Lowry fell.
Tennessee did gain some life when Martinez muffed a punt after the Titans’ next offensive possession, and Stephen Tulloch recovered at the Broncos 27. Young led the Titans in for a touchdown, getting a 1-yard touchdown that was awarded on a belated replay challenge that came only because of a Broncos timeout.
The Titans closed to within 27-20 on Bironas’ 37-yard field goal, but the defense gave it right back on the next possession, when a missed Reynaldo Hill tackle became a 62-yard touchdown gallop for backup tailback Andre Hall.