Titans edge Lions 44-41 in overtime thriller
Mike Munchak has been a player or coach in the NFL for more than 30 years. His Tennessee Titans and the Detroit Lions turned in a game chock full of plays that compares to nothing he has ever seen before.
The Titans became the first NFL team to score five touchdowns of 60 yards or longer in one game, two on special teams and a third when Alterraun Verner simply pried the ball away from Brandon Pettigrew before running it 72 yards for a TD.
The Lions scored 14 points in the final 18 seconds of regulation to force overtime - the first team to do that in league history.
Tackles Jurrell Casey and Sen'Derrick Marks stopped backup quarterback Shaun Hill short on fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 7 for a 44-41 overtime win Sunday - a victory the previously winless Titans desperately needed.
''I think hopefully that we learned that no matter what happens in the game, the highs and lows, it's never over,'' Munchak said.
If all the big plays and scoring surges weren't enough, suspect officiating added to the mayhem on a day when the Titans (1-2) led 20-9 at halftime only to fall behind 27-20 when Detroit scored 18 straight points before Tennessee countered with 21 in a span of 5 minutes, 25 seconds.
Several of the Lions had started taking the tape off their fingers when backup Shaun Hill, in for the injured Matthew Stafford, helped Detroit score twice in the final 18 seconds to force overtime.
''That was definitely a roller coaster,'' Lions defensive end Cliff Avril said. ''Never been a part of that. Crazy. You're down 14 with a few minutes to go, and then the next thing you know you're back in the game. It was definitely crazy.''
The Lions (1-2) lost their second straight after miscommunication led to the final play of the game instead of what could have been Jason Hanson's fifth field goal. Rob Bironas kicked his third field goal, a 26-yarder, to put Tennessee ahead to stay after a drive that got its own boost from the officials.
They announced a replay review had overturned their ruling of a catch by Tennessee tight end Craig Stevens, with the ball hitting the ground as he rolled after being hit helmet to helmet by Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch. After spending several minutes discussing where to place the ball, they put it at the Lions' 29, giving the Titans 27 yards. The penalty apparently was marched off from the Detroit 44 instead of the Tennessee 44, where the play started.
''Obviously, there was a miscommunication, or I don't know what you call it, from an enforcement standpoint,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.
The Lions went right back down the field until the Titans stopped Mikel Leshoure on third down about a foot shy of the first down at the Tennessee 7. The Lions lined up, and Schwartz said they wanted to try and draw the Titans offside before he called a timeout. Instead, Hill took the snap, and Casey and Marks drove the Lions backward for a 1-yard loss.
''The crowd was loud,'' Schwartz said. ''If they didn't jump, we were just going to take the timeout. The ball ended up getting snapped. We needed that, obviously, to make sure all 11 guys get the calls right there and be able to play it.''
Hill took the blame.
''It's up to the quarterback to get all 11 on the same page, for sure,'' Hill said. ''I'll just leave it at that. It was on me.''
The Titans immediately started celebrating as both teams walked to the middle of the field exhausted after a game that went 3 hours, 51 minutes. But an official stood over the ball where it had been marked, and the replay official reviewed the final play one last time before the referee announced the ruling was upheld and the game was over.
That finally left Jake Locker a winner as a starter on a day he threw for 378 yards with two touchdowns, including a 71-yarder to Nate Washington, who plucked the ball almost off the back of Lions cornerback Jacob Lacey on his way to the end zone during that 21-point outburst late in the fourth quarter.
The finish was so frantic it nearly overshadowed a touchdown mimicking the most famous play in Titans history, the Music City Miracle to lift them past Buffalo in a January 2000 playoff game. Tommie Campbell caught a lateral from Darius Reynaud on a punt return and ran it 65 yards for a TD in the first quarter for Tennessee.
Reynaud had never thrown a pass in a game going back to high school, and he scored his own TD on a franchise-record 105-yard kickoff return that tied the game at 27. Jared Cook also caught a 61-yard TD pass in the second quarter from Locker.
The Titans had their chances to win in regulation. Verner picked off a Hill pass that was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Akeem Ayers before Hill found Calvin Johnson for a 3-yard TD on the next play. The Lions then recovered an onside kick.
Hill threw a short pass to the sideline to Nate Burleson, who took at least a step before losing the ball when hit by Titans cornerback Jason McCourty. An official threw down his bean bag, indicating a change of possession. Verner picked up the ball and started to run to the end zone before another official ran up and called it incomplete.
Because it was in the final 2 minutes, a review is left up to the officials and coaches cannot challenge. No replay review was done, but the Titans' defense finally made sure those miscues didn't hurt them.
''It's definitely one that I'll never forget for my first win,'' Locker said.
Notes: Stafford left after pulling up limping on Verner's TD return with what the Lions called a strain muscle. Stafford threw for 278 yards and a TD, and he said he's not fast enough to pull anything. Hill threw for 172 yards in his relief duty. ... Leshoure ran for 100 yards in his NFL debut. The Lions running back missed his rookie season with an Achilles' tendon injury and was suspended for the first two games of this season. ... The Titans also scored two TDs on punt return and or kickoff return for the first time in the same game.
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