Titans enjoy relief of victory no matter how ugly
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
Yes, winning really is all that matters.
The Titans overcame a blocked field goal, two shanked punts by the player who's been their most reliable and an offense that managed one drive when it mattered most. There were a few highlights in Monday night's ugly 14-10 win: a franchise-record touchdown run from Chris Johnson, and the defense forced five turnovers and had four sacks.
Coach Mike Munchak called the win good for not just all the coaches and players but for everyone associated with the team after a tough stretch the past few weeks.
''So I think last night was just a feeling of relief,'' Munchak said Tuesday. ''Playing hard and not always playing our best or making all the plays that were there, but hanging together for four quarters. It was interesting all the way to the end and win a football game. It's exactly what we needed and helps to build on the next one.''
That may be easier said than done. Unlike the bumbling Jets, the Titans (5-9) visit Green Bay (10-4) on Sunday. The Packers have clinched the NFC North and want momentum going into the postseason.
Tennessee players had Tuesday off. When they return to practice, coaches will have a few decisions to make.
The staff must decide who starts at center now that Kevin Matthews has a high right ankle sprain that will keep him out the rest of the season, the fifth offensive lineman lost to injury this season and the second center. Rookie Kendall Wright, their leading receiver with 62 catches, thought he cracked a rib and was being evaluated Tuesday.
''We won is all that matters right now,'' Munchak said. ''We need to figure out for the next game how to score more points and build off of that. So you'd rather build off of at least we found a way to win a football game.''
The Titans still have plenty to figure out after the win in which the final three plays sum up just how ugly it was.
Johnson ran for 2 yards on third-and-8, getting the ball out to the Tennessee 6. Brett Kern, the punter who had been averaging 42.2 net yards on his punts this season, shanked a punt under pressure that fluttered through the air only 19 yards. That set the Jets up to win the game at the Tennessee 25 with 47 seconds left.
''It's been like that all season,'' Titans safety Michael Griffin said after the game. ''It was no different. I'm just glad we were finally able to get things turned around and have the ball finally bounce our way.''
Really the only offensive highlights for the Titans came on Johnson's 94-yard TD run in the second quarter, padding his NFL record to six TDs of 80 yards or longer. It was Johnson's third such TD this season, tying him with Barry Sanders in 1997 as the only NFL players to notch three TDS of 80 yards or longer in a single season.
Jake Locker ran for a 13-yard touchdown on a quarterback sweep left late in the third quarter that provided the winning margin. The other big highlight is Locker did not turn the ball over once after losing nine turnovers combined the previous three games. The Titans are 3-1 this season when not turning the ball over even once.
Tennessee went three-and-out six times and didn't score a single point off the five turnovers despite Jason McCourty's first interception setting them up at their own 48 late in the first half and his second put them at the Jets 46 early in the third.
The Titans also had a season-high both with 14 penalties and 111 yards, which Munchak called part of ''growing up.''
Kern, who a career-long 71-yarder earlier this season, also had another poor punt that set up the Jets at the Titans 35 for New York's lone touchdown. Kern took to Twitter after the game to apologize.
But a defense that came in 31st giving up 29.9 points per game got a season-high in turnovers, including four interceptions. McCourty doubled what he had this season, while Griffin came in with only one.
The Titans also may get middle linebacker Colin McCarthy back after he missed three games with a concussion, which would be a big boost too.
''We're trending in the right direction,'' Munchak said.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter: http://twitter.com/teresamwalker