Titans rally past Buccaneers, 23-17

Well, wins don’t have to be particularly pretty to count.

The Tennessee Titans came back to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-17 today at LP Field in what was a pretty ugly, mistake-filled game. The Bucs got on the board first, chunking their way down the field but not making it in the red zone for a field goal, but the Titans took advantage of the kickoff return. Marc Mariani handed off to Tommie Campbell on a reverse, and Campbell showed off excellent speed in outracing the defenders 84 yards for a touchdown.

The Titans would get within aiming distance of the end zone their next two possessions, but failed on fourth down from the Bucs 30 after moving the ball 29 yards and extended their lead to 10-3 after finally getting to the red zone after a Dave Ball sack/fumble/fumble recovery set them up at the Tampa 38. The Bucs would tie the game right before halftime, though, after a Javon Ringer fumble was returned to the Titans 29. Josh Freeman capped off the drive when Mike Williams beat Alterraun Verner on a slant from three yards out.

Aqib Talib gave the Bucs a 17-10 lead when he undercut Hasselbeck’s pass for Nate Washington early in the third quarter after Chris Johnson and Mike Williams exchanged fumbles. The Titans cut the lead to 17-13 early in the fourth quarter on a 52-yard field goal by Rob Bironas. The Bucs made it to the edge of field goal range their next possession, but two penalties pushed them back to midfield, and the Titans drove 80-yard for the eventual game-winning score. The big play of the drive was a 34-yard run by Chris Johnson, and Hasselbeck converted fourth-and-goal from the TB 2 to Damian Williams for a 20-17 lead.

The Bucs would end up with two chances to get the win, but Josh Freeman threw the ball to Colin McCarthy, which the Titans converted into a Bironas field goal and 23-17 lead. Tampa made it to the Tennessee 25 in the final minute, but ended up with a confused fourth-and-one at the 25 that resulted in a particularly bad failed sneak. Hasselbeck took a final knee, and the Titans won for the first time all season when allowing more than 14 points.

After the jump, player notes:

  • I gave up on Chris Johnson a few days ago. For the first time this season, he actually ran more like he did in 2009, with vision and making cuts. He ended up with 23 carries for 190 yards. I think that overstates how well he actually played (my Enemy Intelligence post underrated just how incredibly bad the Bucs linebackers are at run fits), and I don’t think he has the same fourth gear he had in 2009. Still, for the first time in 2011, he actually ran like I expected him to run this year.
  • Matt Hasselbeck: two interceptions and 19 of 34 for 160 yards are pretty ugly numbers. The first pick, on the fourth and two, I have no issues with, as the only alternative was taking a drive-killing sack. The second pick was more a very good play by Talib, though I still wish he hadn’t thrown it. Frankly, I don’t think he’s the problem with the offense, but he’s not the solution to your worries either.
  • Mike Otto wasn’t a disaster filling in for David Stewart.
  • Wideout roulette wheel winner this week was Lavelle Hawkins, with five catches for 51 yards, including a third down conversion on the game-winning drive.
  • I’ll update the numbers this week, but the Titans are ridiculously good at starting in opposing territory and not coming away with a touchdown. They had another possession that started at the TB29 that didn’t result in any points.
  • LeGarrette Blount had a surprisingly good day-better patience and quick footwork than I anticipated. He ended up with 20 carries for 103 yards.
  • Dave Ball had the Titans’ only two sacks of the day, both in the first half. I don’t think the Titans listened to me in my exhortation to concentrate on not letting Freeman beat them with his mobility, though.
  • Maybe it was the rain, but this was a really ugly game. The Titans had four turnovers, and the Bucs ended up with five. Plenty of fans also came disguised as empty seats.
  • Akeem Ayers can’t play pass coverage. Kellen Winslow at the Titans up in the first half with five grabs, a lot of them against Ayers. I noticed Ayers less in coverage in him in the second half.

I’ll have more to say about this game later in the week. For now, take 24 hours and enjoy the win. Do me a favor and don’t go overboard, though.

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