Why? Because it’s there.
Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher sees no better reason than that to win the regular season finale Sunday at Indianapolis (3:15 p.m., CBS).
When asked Wednesday about possible motivation for his team, which has nothing at stake, Fisher didn’t hesitate: “To go out and win the last football game of the year.”
The Titans’ slim playoff chances disappeared with last Sunday’s 34-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Even had they won, they still would have been eliminated from contention because the Colts, who have won six of the last seven AFC South titles, defeated the Oakland Raiders.
A year ago, Tennessee defeated Seattle on the road in its final game — a week after being eliminated from playoff contention. The franchise also closed out a postseason-less 2004 with a victory over Detroit, which snapped a five-game losing streak.
“It’s important; it’s very important,” Fisher said. “You go out and try to win every game. We know this is a tremendous challenge. They’re playing well, they got their run game going, their defense is playing very, very well, but we have a good game plan in and we just need to go out and make plays.”
In stark contrast, the Colts have every reason to want to play well and to win.
With a victory, they will clinch another division crown and a playoff spot. Otherwise, they will need Jacksonville to lose in order to advance.
“A real lesson in coaching is you’ve got to navigate where you are now,” Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell said. “Where we are now, obviously, is a very difficult spot where we’ve got to fight and we’ve been fighting for the last few weeks to try and get ourselves in position to continue to be able to play.
“We’re playing a very, very good football team that we have tight battles with. The scores are always tight from the history. Since we’ve played one another there has always been very, very close games and we don’t expect this one to be any different.”
This is the third time in four years the teams have met in the final game of the regular season.
In 2008, Tennessee already had clinched the division title, rested a number of key players and lost 23-0. In 2007, the situation was reversed and it was the Colts who chose not to risk many of their starters. The Titans took advantage and won 16-10.
In each of those seasons, both teams ended up in the postseason — Tennessee got there in 2007 only after that final victory against Indianapolis.
At most, only one will move on this time.
“We don’t bring up the quit word; there is no quit in this football team,” Fisher said. “We’re going to play hard, we’re going to grasp the game plan, go out there and make plays and play with great effort just like we’ve been talking about all year.
“We have a huge challenge. Obviously, their motivation is a little bit different than us. They need to win this to win the division and we need to win it to win it.”