Can you imagine what might have happened had the Titans actually lost last night to the Jets?
Mercurial owner Bud Adams, forced to watch his disappointing team drop a home game in front of a national audience to Mark Sanchez and the NFL’s living, breathing definition of dysfunction.
Fortunately, for Titans fans — and even more so for head coach Mike Munchak and his staff — there is no need to imagine such a scenario.
Instead, Tennessee picked up its fifth win of the season, none uglier than this one.
Just 12 first downs (six three-and-outs on 14 possessions). 294 total yards, though 94 came on one Chris Johnson TD sprint, proof that he can still scoot when creases are available. (Johnson gained just 28 yards on his other 20 carries, but it was an inspired effort. He ran hard. He blocked hard. He paid tribute to the fallen kids in Newtown, Conn., writing the names of all 20 children on his sneakers.)
Did QB Jake Locker instill more confidence within the organization that he is the right man to lead this club moving forward? Well, he didn’t turn the ball over for the first time in over a month. He picked up 43 yards with his legs, including the game-winner from 13 yards out, a swift response to New York's only second-half lead. He delivered a couple of really nice throws on the move, encouraging because offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains clearly factored Locker's mobility and accuracy outside the pocket into this week's game plan as much as any other. His accuracy with his feet set — not to mention his awareness and willingness to always be a QB first — remain issues, but this is a performance he and the Titans can build upon.
As horrendous as Sanchez played (four INTs, one fumble) and as obvious a need as there was for defensive coordinator Jerry Gray to bring waves of pressure to make the QB crumble, give credit where it’s due: this was easily Gray’s most aggressive game plan of the season and one of his group’s finest performances.
It’s amazing how much better the coverage on the back end looks (albeit against New York's terrible pass-catching corps) with a bit of pressure. Rookie WLB Zach Brown sacked Sanchez twice. Derrick Morgan continued his strong second half of the season, tallying a sack, tackle for loss and two QB hits. Heck, even Kamerion Wimbley made his presence felt, though it was more to clean up the trash from pressure generated from the interior and by blitzing.
Was it enough to save jobs after the season? Only time will tell.
For as good a game plan as Gray and Loggains devised, the Titans drew 14 penalties for 111 yards. That is totally inexcusable. Don’t try and chalk it up to inexperienced players, either. Veterans SenDerrick Marks and Jordan Babineaux both were flagged twice. Usually heady LB Will Witherspoon almost cost his team the win with a senseless roughing the passer penalty as the defense was trying to preserve the victory on its own side of the field in the final minutes.
The Titans continue to lack discipline and consistency, but they also continue to fight for their embattled head coach and his staff.