The Tennessee Titans could easily be 1-11 right now, instead of 4-8, if the outcome of a few plays had not been in the Titans' favor. Three of the Titans' four wins were by a total of just seven points – a one-point win and two three-point wins – so all three of those wins could have been losses if just one play in each of those games had been different.
That's not something you'd read about in The Tennessean, which recently featured a slideshow by John Glennon, focusing on five plays which might have changed the Titans' season for the better. Perhaps they'd be 6-6 and still in mathematical contention for a playoff berth.
It's my contention that one play, or an alternate play, in three of the Titans' wins, could more likely have happened differently than the likelihood of the five plays in The Tennessean. Here are the three plays, plus alternatives to consider, in three Titans wins which could have easily been losses, after the jump.
Titans 35, Bills 34
Trailing 34-28 in the final minute, the Titans had to convert a fourth and nine at the Buffalo 15-yard line. If Matt Hasselbeck's pass had been just a little off-target, been tipped at the line, or if Nate Washington had been unable to make a fine catch, the Titans lose.
Alternate play to consider: Just a few minutes earlier, had Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick not made a horrendous decision and thrown the ball right to Jason McCourty at midfield to set the Titans up for their winning drive, the Titans don't even get the opportunity.
Titans 44, Lions 41
There are a number of plays you could point to in this one but what stands out to me in this "shootout" which went to overtime, is the Titans' offense was able to score only 20 points in regulation. If not for a couple of special teams scores, and one by the defense, the Titans don't even get to overtime.
If I had to pick just one play in this game that could have altered the outcome, it would be Alterraun Verner's touchdown after taking the ball from Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew. At 6'5" and 265 pounds, Pettigrew has a considerable size and strength advantage over the 5'10" 187-pound Verner. A big tight end is not supposed to let a little cornerback wrestle the ball away from him, but credit to Verner for doing it and then running 72 yards for a score.
Alternate plays to consider: Washington's miraculous catch for a touchdown or Detroit's miscommunication issues on the final play of the game. Credit to Washington for making the play he did, but that should have been an easy pass for the defender to break up or even intercept. It seems that the Lions were trying to draw the Titans offside on the final play but their center snapped the ball instead. Credit the Titans for not jumping offsides or second guess the Lions for not kicking the field goal to extend the game.
Titans 26, Steelers 23
Trailing 23-16 late in the fourth quarter, the Titans stalled after a third down incompletion but were awarded a first and goal at the Pittsburgh 10-yard line on a penalty. Sometimes the zebras smile in your favor. Kenny Britt very nearly couldn't hold on to the ball for the TD which tied the game three plays later.
Alternate play: I feared the Steelers would still win when they attempted a 54-yard field goal, but Shaun Suisham's kick was just short. The Titans took over with good field position and advanced the ball far enough for a Rob Bironas game-winning kick. If Suisham's kick had been good, and the Titans started around their own 20-yard line on the ensuing series, instead of their 45, I'm not confident the Titans could have driven 50 yards or so in 49 seconds for a Bironas field goal attempt.
Beating the Steelers always gives me a warm feeling. If there's nothing else good about this season, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing the Titans beat the Steelers this year. That being said, the Titans were very fortunate to win that game.
When I consider that the Titans could be 1-11 at this point, it makes me feel a little better about the 4-8 record and makes me feel good that we don't have to speculate about who the Titans will select with the first pick in the draft.