Daniel Graham was not the only one who felt a little extra measure of satisfaction Sunday.
Punter Brett Kern — like Graham — played for the Denver Broncos recently and he — like Graham — made a play last weekend that contributed significantly to the Tennessee Titans’ 17-14 victory over the Broncos at LP Field.
Whereas Graham, a tight end, did his job as he should when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass with 4:24 to play, Kern did the unexpected. His 21-yard run on an aborted punt attempt during the second quarter led to a field goal, which ultimately was the difference on the scoreboard.
“It felt good,” Kern said. “It was obviously a game-changer. We got three points out of it, but the offense and defense both played great. They made key plays at key times.
“That was just one play out of many that contributed to the victory.”
The score was tied 7-7 when the Tennessee offense seemingly was stopped with just under three minutes to play in the first half.
Kern came on to punt, but when the snap was off line to the right, he had to make a decision. He ran and did not stop until he gained 21 yards, at which point a Denver player thumped him.
“You have maybe a tenth of a second to look up and see what the other guys are doing,” he said. “… I probably could have gotten the punt off without a problem. I saw the guy was rushing in and there was a pretty open sideline.
“I just had to get out of bounds a little quicker.”
Even as it was, his dash turned into the longest running play for the Titans through the first three weeks of the regular season. More importantly, though, it sent the offense back on the field and four plays later Rob Bironas kicked a 46-yard field goal that put the Titans in front for the first time.
“He turned a play that could have been awful into a three-point football play for us,” coach Mike Munchak said. “ … That’s one of those things that happens, and he was just a guy making a play. He could have panicked and just have fallen on the ball or done something and not gotten the first down, but he was smart enough to grab it and run. It was a nice turning point there before the half.”
Kern broke into the NFL with Denver in 2008, when he earned numerous all-rookie honors, and joined the Titans soon after the Broncos cut him six weeks into the 2009 season.
Lucky for him, he did not break any bones when Denver wide receiver Quan Cosby — the punt returner — got upfield and upended him at the end of the run.
“I did have the intention of getting out of bounds. I just didn’t get there,” Kern said. “I just fell on my back a little funny, but walking around you kind of shake it off a little.
“I think it’s the hardest I’ve been hit since the eighth grade, tackle football out in the yard. That’s why I chose to play the punter position.”
No doubt, the way things turned out helped ease his pain as well.