Defense leads Titans past Steelers, 16-9

The Titans used a strong defensive performance that shut out the Steelers offense for over 58 minutes and an offense that did just enough to take advantage of good field position for a 16-9 upset win in Pittsburgh over the Steelers.

The game started ridiculously poorly, as Darius Reynaud fielded the opening kickoff at the 1 and then stepped into the end zone for what he thought was a touchback but was actually a safety. The Steelers took the ensuing free kick down to the 5, but Isaac Redman fumbled the handoff for a touchback. The Titans made it to field goal range the next possession before an offensive pass interference call pushed them back and the game became one of field position. The Titans got the next big break, when Alterraun Verner had a great interception midway through the second quarter that gave them the ball at the Steelers 49. Eleven runs and one pass later, including a fourth-and-1 conversion by Jackie Battle, the Titans were up 7-2 in a game they could've been down multiple scores.

The next score came early in the second half, after starting again in plus territory, this time after an exchange of punts. After two big completions on third-and-long, one a seamer to Delanie Walker and the other to Nate Washington, a Bironas field goal from 26 made it 10-2. They extended that to 13-2 with six minutes to play in the fourth, with a 24 yard interference penalty on a pass to Walker the biggest gainer on a drive that started inside the 15. A long Reynaud punt return to inside the 20 set up another field goal to make it 16-2 with under 4 to play. The Steelers did drive the length of the field against a soft defense, but when George Wilson came down with the onside kick it was all over.

On the whole, this was almost the perfect recipe for how the Titans want and need to win in 2013. They held the ball for 34 minutes. They ran the ball 40 times and passed it 20. Sure, Chris Johnson only got 25 carries for 70 yards, but it didn't matter because of what the defense did. Once the Steelers lost center Maurkice Pouncey, Jurrell Casey and his defensive linemates feasted on the soft interior, bringing down Ben Roethlisberger five times and pressuring him even more (six hits).

Is this a sustainable formula for success? Maybe not, as the Steelers had some deep passes that could have been but weren't completed and a couple deflected Locker throws that could have been interceptions were not. Right now, though, who cares? The NFL's standings are based on the final score, which means the Titans are 1-0, which is a better place to be than 0-1.

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