As you might guess from the headline, the Titans suffered their first loss of the season, falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers this afternoon by a score of 19-11 at LP Field. Today’s spectators were as rowdy and ready to go as any crowd I’ve seen gather there in quite some time, however soon after Rob Bironas booted the football on the kickoff, fear silenced the Titans faithful as Steelers WR Antonio Brown took the ball 89 yards to the house. The kickoff was actually fielded by veteran RB Mewelde Moore at the 3-yard line, but he advanced it to the 8 where he handed off to Brown on a reverse. The kickoff return goes down in the books as a 97-yard TD.
What fear could silence an undefeated team at home so early in a football contest?
Well, some of the less confident Titans fans might tell you the game was lost after the initial kickoff return, and some will tell you it was any combination of interceptions and/or fumbles at certain points of the game, but there are many fans dressed in black and gold and a growing number wearing the blue and white that will tell you that this game was lost in the 4th Qtr. of Week 16, December 21, 2008.
What happened on that day? The Titans had to beat the Steelers in order to secure a home field advantage during the playoffs. They stomped Pittsburgh 31-14, but it’s what else they stomped that has negatively affected the Titans in many ways since that victory. A few players stomped on the Steeler’s sacred ‘terrible towel’ and grinded it into the turf with their cleats. Now, I don’t have time to tell you what a terrible towel is, so if you don’t know, please visit Wikipedia after reading this post. History has proven that when this towel is disrespected in any fashion by opposing teams, those opponents become vulnerable to:
The Curse of The Terrible Towel
How hearty of a hex are we talking about? Well, the Titans went on to lose Week 17 to the Colts 23-0 and lost their first Divisional playoff game to the Ravens 13-10.
For those of you who don’t believe in curses, the Titans lost this game because of turnovers and mistakes. Yes, the Steelers defense is as tough as they come and they consistantly add enough pressure to throw any offense off-course. Even with run-stopping Casey Hampton out of the lineup, Pittsburgh removed any hope of Chris Johnson having a 100-yard outing by stuffing all aspects of the running game. Whether it be Johnson behind FB Hall, or VY/CJ option right or left, they gave the Titans absolutely zilch to work with 99% of the afternoon. To his credit, CJ reeled off an 85 yard TD run at the 4:11 mark of the 2nd Qtr, but it was called back on a holding penalty (THIS, my friends, is the point in the game where the Titans really started to fall apart).
When the Steeler ‘D’ was not zeroing in on Johnson, who finished the day with 34 rushing yards on 16 attempts (a dismal 2.1 yards per carry average), they were wreaking havoc on the Titans passing game. OLB James Harrison was creating all sorts of problems for Vince Young, who stank up the joint with his 7 of 9 for 66 yards passing and 2 interceptions. Harrison made 3 sacks on the day and forced 2 fumbles. He was a big factor in the ‘7-turnover’ Titans performance. All-Pro SS Troy Palamalu help set the tone early by picking off a VY pass in the Steelers end zone at the 5:53 mark of the 1st Qtr. Timmons and Woodley also deserve recognition is this forceful defensive effort
After Young committed his last turnover late in the 3rd Qtr, veteran backup Kerry Collins was brought in to give what Jeff Fisher described as “a spark” early in the 4th. Unfortunately, there was no such flicker as Collins threw an interception on his first series. He did manage 1 touchdown this afternoon, but there just wasn’t enough time to play catch-up.
You may be wondering why I have not mentioned anything about the Steelers offense. Well, there is really not a lot to report other than RB Rashard Mendenhall rushing for 69 yards on 23 carries. No other player on offense racked up more than 28 yards…including 2 QBs. Speaking of QBs, Ben Roethlisberger is still serving a 4 game suspension and Byron Leftwich was cut to make salary cap room for defensive line reinforcements, so inexperienced Dennis Dixon got the starting call. Early in the game, Dixon went down with a sprained knee, leaving 4th string QB Charlie Batch to run the Steeler offense for most of the game. Batch completed just 5 of 11 passes for 25 yards, 0 TDs 0 Int. (Like I said, not much to report on that side of the ball).
Next week, the Titans travel to the Meadowlands (actually New Meadowlands Stadium) to take on the NY Giants. This should be a high scoring affair as CJ looks to make up lost yardage on his journey to his 2500 yard rushing mark and both Vince Young and Eli Manning will be trying to shake off the ‘Week 3 Funk’ they both contracted.
What did we learn from this game?
Keep your feet to yourselves!