In a season full of forgetful moments for the Tennessee Titans, today’s season finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars brought some very memorable ones including an NFL record.
The Titans defeating the Jaguars 38-20 and their final record of 6-10 won’t be remembered for long, but the record they set could stand for a long time.
Never before in the history of the NFL has one team scored two touchdowns on interception returns and punt returns, but as bad as this season has been for Tennessee, that the record that this team established today.
Following an opening drive touchdown that took the Titans just seven plays to cover 79 yards, and was capped by a Chris Johnson two-yard touchdown run that give the Titans an early, and short lived lead, the Jaguars responded.
Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne, who was harassed and sacked seven time on the day by the Titans defense got off to a fast start, connecting on a five-yard strike to receiver Jordan Shipley with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter.
Henne then took the next Jacksonville possession to drive the Jaguars 76 yards in just seven plays, the last a 30 yard touchdown pass to rookie first round selection Justin Blackmon for what would be the team’s only lead of the day.
Henne, who resembled Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers on the first two Jaguars possession, reverted to form the rest of the game, throwing three interceptions and several more passes that the Titan defenders had in their hands but dropped.
“It just shows you again, we talk about it every week when we didn’t win,” said Titans head coach Mike Munchak. “It’s about making plays and that’s what changes games around.
With the Titans trailing 14-7 and the offense now struggling, Henne had again masterfully driven the Jaguars to the edge of another score when the Titans rookie linebacker Zach Brown made the first of four consecutive scoring plays for the Titans.
Brown stepped in front of an intended receiver at the Titans twenty-one yard line and returned his first interception 79 yards to tie the contest at 14-14 with 1:48 left in the first half.
“It felt good to get the picks,” said Brown. “The first one, I dropped it but coach told me he’d (Jacksonville QB Chad Henne) throw me another one, I was just waitin for it.”
Following a three-and-out on its next possession the Jaguars punted the football to Darius Reynaud with just 33 seconds remaining in the half. Reynaud, who has struggled in recent weeks, took the Bryan Anger punt back 69 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 lead that the Titans would not relinquish.
“The first one was blocked well,” said Reynaud. “I’d seen all the coverage in the middle of the field, when I hit the sideline I didn’t see nothing but green, I just hit the hole after that.”
The Titans weren’t done there, as after forcing a second consecutive Jaguars punt, Reynaud would add his second return touchdown of the game, this time from 81 yards away and what would the game winner with 12:54 remaining in the third quarter.
“On the second one, I saw all those guys on the right side, it was a right return, so when I planted and I slipped, I turned back round and I saw all my blockers to the left side,” said Reynaud. “The made good blocks and I just finished after that.
“When I saw Coty (Sensabaugh) make that last block, my eye’s got big,” continued Reynaud. “I thank those guys for blocking, it’s not just one guy on a return, so I thank all those ten guys for blocking.”
As if that was wasn’t enough for the Titans, Zach Brown had one more big play to go before the Titans would finally allow their offense to return to the field.
Brown, who had earlier dropped what looked to have been a sure interception with the chance for a touchdown, had already atoned for that gaff when he intercepted a second Henne pass, this one deflected by Tommie Campbell and returned it 30 yards for his second score and a place in NFL history.
“Yeah, we bragged about him (Brown) when we got him,” said Munchak. “We needed some immediate things, we felt he was a guy that would fit.”
The Titans offense, which last possessed the football with 3:57 remaining on the second quarter made its first appearance of the second half when Michael Griffin intercepted Henne again on the Jaguars ensuing possession.
Griffin, who had two interceptions in the last home game against the Jets made things interesting on the return, carrying it down the near sideline for 40 yards, all the way to the Jaguars seven. A block in the back penalty on the Titans Mike Martin would back the Titans up and in spite of great field position the Titans offense would fail to score after an incomplete Locker pass on fourth down.
The Titans offense struggled most of the game and if not for the big plays in special teams and defense this team might have found itself losing to the Jaguars for the second time this season.
“It’s kind of been happening to us all year,” said Titans quarterback JakeLocker. “We had some penalties, we didn’t make some plays that we probably could of (and) it killed us as far as continuing drives. Those are things we’ve got to find a way to fix.”
The Titans will have a while to wait to fix things and the future of Munchak and many of his assistant coaches remain up in the air as they await the final decisions of owner Bud Adams who openly questioned his team following last week’s beating in Green Bay.
Adams did not attend today’s season finale, which brought some to speculate if it was a telling sign of things to come for Munchak and staff.
“Yeah that’s part of it,”said Munchak when asked if today’s win showed the team is indeed going in the right direction.
“I think it’s a full, when you talk to the owner, it’s from top-to-bottom you’re going to talk about your roster, what we think we are doing, why we are headed in the right direction with some of the players we have, where we need to add or make adjustments that will make a difference next year,” continued Munchak. “The same thing with coaching, what we’re doing there, what our thinking is kind of top-to-bottom and hopefully again, when you see things like today, you should be excited that you have some good, young players that can make some plays that are going to be here for a long time.”
With today’s win the Titans finish the 2012 season with a 6-10 record, and avoided finishing winless inside the AFC South.
The Titans also potentially saw their draft position fall from a possible seventh spot to number ten with today’s victory.
Even with the win and that drop in draft positions, Munchak and staff must still sit and wait to know if they will be part of making that selection.
“Well definitely, I think, obviously I feel I’m the guy for the job,” said Munchak. “I feel like we’re going to get this thing going. We we’re 9-7 a year ago, 6-10 not happy, but I think we’re getting the right guys here, we’re doing it the right way, so yeah, obviously I think myself and the staff feel good about the direction we’re going, we know we’ve got some work ahead of us in that regard, but yeah, definitley, I think we’re going ahead. Obviousl, I’ll have a talk with, I’m sure at some point with Mr. (Bud) Adams, and hopefully he’ll agree with me.”