Mark Wiedmer: Titans enjoy Thursday win, feel some mistakes corrected

Mark Wiedmer: Titans enjoy Thursday win, feel some mistakes corrected

October 13th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas (2) reacts with holder Brett Kern (6) after kicking the game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans won 26-23.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - For a moment, they were little kids again celebrating a victory in a kid's game.

This wasn't to pay for the mansion in Brentwood with the five-car garage. Or the diamond-studded hubcaps. Or $5,000 tattoos.

This was joy for joy's sake. This was the Tennessee Titans winning the second of their six National Football League games to date in the best way possible, staging a fourth-quarter rally to stun the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And so they danced and hugged and screamed and laughed inside LP Field until the early minutes of Friday morning, their stadium parking lot still overflowing with fans at the stroke of midnight following this most unlikely 26-23 win.

"I was just happy for everyone," said coach Mike Munchak, who seemed happiest of all after Rob Bironas drilled a 40-yard field goal as time expired.

"In the NFL, it's all about winning football games, and when you're not it's the worst business in the world."

A couple of hours earlier, the new nighttime drama "Nashville" had made its debut on ABC, a well-crafted soap opera about an aging country music star fighting for her professional life against the next pretty young thing.

Only the Titans aren't old and hanging on. Twenty-six players of the 53 listed on the active roster and practice squad are 26 or younger. Only seven are 30 and older.

By comparison, the Steelers list 25 who are 25 or younger but 15 who are 30 or older.

Perhaps to that end, 28-year-old Titans linebacker Tim Shaw said, "We've been making those little mistakes that make us look bad. We've been making those little missed tackles and missed assignments that kind of made us look soft as a defense. We corrected a lot of those tonight."

Yet they also kept making a few of them, including an interception thrown by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck that forced tailback Chris Johnson to make what might have been the most important tackle of the game.

With 9:56 left in the game, Hasselbeck was picked off by Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons at the Pittsburgh 48. He briefly looked as if he might go a long way, maybe even all the way for a touchown, which would have given the Steelers an 11-point, backbreaking lead.

Instead, Johnson tackled him at the Titans' 48. The Steelers were forced to settle for a field goal, which changed everything the rest of the way.

"We just got stronger as the game went on," Shaw said. "We wanted this win, we needed this win and I think we really came together as a team tonight."

Two stats to show what a big improvement this was for the Titans from their first five games, which included four defeats:

1) Tennessee won time of possession by six seconds -- 30:03 to 29:57. In its first five games the Titans defense had been on the field an average of 10 minutes and 20 seconds longer than its offense.

2) Johnson -- he of the 2,006-yard rushing season in 2009 -- had gained 210 total yards through the first five games, an average of 42 yards and 2.9 yards per carry. Against the Steelers he ran for 91 yards and 4.8 per carry. Pittsburgh was giving up only 95.3 rushing yards a game total heading into Thursday night.

"That's kind of refreshing for me to watch," Munchak said, "because in the past, this year anyway, we haven't been able to do that and it's been all passing."

Teams that win consistently are never about one thing. They're balanced. Offense. Defense. Special teams. All for one and one for all.

Or as Johnson said afterward of his relationship with his offensive line: "I need my offensive line and they need me. We need each other."

When you're 2-4 you need to make the most of each of your remaining 10 games. You're probably not going to win them all, but the schedule does get better the rest of the way. Only two remaining opponents -- Houston and Chicago -- have winning records at the moment. Only one other, Green Bay, figures to have one by the end of the year.

"We know it's only one win, but it's a great win," Munchak said. "Hopefully it will lead to other things. Hopefully you'll continue to see this team when we play [at] Buffalo [on Oct. 21]."

If not, Munchak could quickly return to working in the worst business in the world.