Titans now control of playoff destiny with 5 left

BY foxsports • November 25, 2013

The Titans control their playoff fate.

That sounds almost impossible for a team under .500, that lost five of six games and was the first team to lose to Jacksonville this season.

Despite all of that, the Titans (5-6) currently are in the AFC's final playoff spot after driving 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown to be Oakland 23-19 on Sunday. Tennessee trails the Colts (7-4) by two in the AFC South with a trip to Indianapolis this Sunday with a coach fans wanted fired just last week with the front office overhauled.

''We know if we win five games we're in the playoffs,'' coach Mike Munchak said Monday. ''The worst case is the wild card, so that's where we're hanging our hat on. If they happen to slip up and lose a couple more games, that'd be great if we can win our division. So we're just looking at it is what we can control is the wild card spot and that's winning five games.''

The Titans currently have the tiebreakers over the five other teams tied at 5-6 in the AFC thanks to their wins over the Steelers, Jets and Chargers during their 3-1 start. Wins over those teams also give them an edge over Baltimore and Miami.

Munchak gave his Titans the day off after the team didn't return to Nashville until 2 a.m. Monday, but tight end Delanie Walker said after the game it's not hard to believe that the Titans are back in playoff contention.

''We're a good team, and when we want it we show up and play,'' Walker said.

The Titans started treating their final six games as their playoffs if they want a chance to play in the postseason. Munchak said they talked in the locker room trailing 9-6 at halftime about exactly what they faced if they didn't come out with a win. But he said they were confident they would find a way to win, even when they fell behind 19-16 with 6:10 left.

That's when the Titans went 80 yards in 14 plays. The Titans converted three third downs on the drive, the last third-and-goal at the Oakland 10 when Ryan Fitzpatrick found Kendall Wright for the winning TD.

''Hopefully we'll capture some of the momentum we have ... and use that to catapult us through the rest of the season,'' Fitzpatrick said.

The Titans still have plenty to clean up after being flagged 10 times for 100 yards, eight on the offense with four on the offensive line alone. But they were penalized only twice for 15 yards in the second half. They also didn't turn the ball over and improved to 4-1 when finishing with a positive turnover margin.

Tennessee looked much more comfortable in Fitzpatrick's second start since Jake Locker was lost for the season to injury. The offense has been adapted to Fitzpatrick's strengths, and he responded throwing for 320 yards. Wright caught six passes for a career-best 103 yards, while rookie Justin Hunter had a break-out performance with six catches for 109 yards.

It was Tennessee's first 300-yard passing game with two 100-yard receivers since 2004.

They also need to finish off drives with touchdowns instead of field goals. The Titans settled for three in Oakland after twice driving to the Raiders 5.

''Those are things that we got to execute better than that,'' Munchak said.

Still, the Titans have hope as they try to earn their first playoff berth since 2008. It won't be easy because they also visit Denver (9-2) before hosting Arizona (7-4). Then they can try to avenge earlier losses to Jacksonville and Houston.

''A lot of work ahead of us,'' Munchak said.

Notes: Munchak said WR Damian Williams has a chance to practice this week after missing two games with an injured hip. If Williams plays, he would take back duties as the returner.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org