Kenny Britt’s 80-yard touchdown reception ended nearly three full quarters of offensive futility but was not enough to rally the Tennessee Titans to victory on Sunday.
Britt’s big play was one of the few bright spots for Tennessee in its first game under coach Mike Munchak. Running back Chris Johnson was a virtual non-factor following his preseason holdout, the defense struggled on third down and penalties were a recurring issue as the Titans fell 16-14 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Britt added a second touchdown reception with 3:34 to play, and the Titans got the ball back with 1:45 to play but had it at their own 3-yard line. They got as far as their own 46 before quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception with 16 seconds remaining.
"As miserable as it was for three quarters, we made the big play to [Britt] and got the touchdown to get within two, the defense did get the stop and made them punt," Munchak said. "Then there we were, 20 yards away from a field goal attempt to win that thing."
Tennessee punted six times and managed only 89 yards on its first seven possessions before Hasselbeck, while scrambling, shot-putted the ball to Britt, who made one defender miss and ran untouched up the left sideline for a touchdown that made the score 13-7 with 2:32 to play in the third quarter.
The only drive before that which did not end with a punt was at the end of the first half. Following a couple short completions from Hasselbeck to Johnson, kicker Rob Bironas attempted a 66-yard field goal — it was well short — as time expired.
“I believe we started a little too late," Britt said. "We didn’t get it going as we wanted to enough in the first half. There were too many penalties and that goes on us. ... In the second half, once we started moving there was no stopping us.”
Britt finished with a game-high 136 yards on five receptions. It was his fifth career 100-yard game, the third in his last seven contests.
Hasselbeck was 21-34 for 263 yards and the two touchdowns in his first start for Tennessee. The late interception was the Titans’ only turnover.
Johnson finished with 24 yards rushing (he had three yards on four attempts through three quarters) and 25 yards receiving on a team-high six catches.
"We just didn’t have the opportunities," Johnson said. "On first down, we would have no gain or a yard and we would have to throw the ball. That would leave us third down and you have to throw it again, so there was not many opportunities to run the ball."
Jacksonville, conversely, held the ball for 39:38 as running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Deji Karim each ran effectively.
Jones-Drew rushed for 97 yards on 24 carries. His 21-yard touchdown run with 6:55 to play in the first quarter started the scoring and put the home team ahead to stay. Karim added 14 rushes for 33 yards.
"Their running game was real successful," cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. "I don’t think they did anything in the passing game that we weren’t expecting. As a secondary, we have to tackle better and then get off the field.
"At the end of the day, no matter what mistakes, we still had a chance to win at the end and that’s all you can ask for. We just came up short.”
The Jaguars converted nine of 18 third-down opportunities (50 percent). The last conversion was a 26-yard completion from quarterback Luke McCown to wide receiver Mike Thomas on third-and-8 with just over three minutes to play. That allowed Jacksonville to run the clock down below the two minute warning before it punted.
Tennessee was 4-11 on third down and was called for seven penalties that cost 60 yards. Jacksonville was penalized just 39 yards on five violations.
"Statistically, we should have been blown out of the game at halftime," Munchak said. "We had very few plays — the whole game I think we only rushed the ball a dozen times — and you won’t win many games doing that.”