Steelers vs. Titans Take Two: Outplayed but Victorious, Tennessee Fights on

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 15, 2012

The Titans live to fight another day.
The Titans live to fight another day.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Whether or not the Tennessee Titans saved their season against Pittsburgh in Week 6, they certainly played a game worth watching twice.

Just how did a team that was left for dead on October 7 in Minnesota rise up to stun the Steelers 26-23?

A second look at the tape tells the story.


The Real Story

While it was an inspiring win for the Titans, it's difficult to watch the tape and not believe the better team lost.

Pittsburgh made more mistakes than the Titans did plays, but in the end, it was the Titans who did just enough to get the victory.

With nine minutes to play, Pittsburgh had the ball, up four points and was driving in Tennessee territory. The Steelers were 80 percent favorites to win the game at that point.

Even on the final drive culminating in a missed field goal for Pittsburgh, it was Ben Roethlisberger's refusal to scramble that left the Steelers facing 54 yards to take the lead. Had he tucked the ball under on third down and picked up five yards, it's likely that Tennessee comes away with a loss.

It was a thrilling victory, a rousing victory, a clutch victory for the Titans, but it was not an impressive victory.

As they say, however, a win's a win.



How about the incredible play of Jared Cook?

The Titans had a huge matchup advantage with Cook all night, but only chose to exploit it in the hurry-up offense. Cook had just four catches, but his 54 yards all set up field goals for Tennessee.

Kendall Wright has struggled early in the year, but had his most effective game as a pro in Week 6. It wasn't just 71 yards receiving, but the fact that most of those yards were significant that impressed.

Tim Shaw's blocked punt was probably the single biggest play of the game. The seven points that resulted from it put the Steelers on their heels the rest of the first half.

Finally, Rob Bironas is a rock. He knocked home four more kicks against Pittsburgh, making him 10/12 on the season.



Is it possible to be a goat while catching the game-tying touchdown?

Kenny Britt didn't play well. His stat line was respectable, but it masks how poorly he played. He dropped several balls, and even had to double clutch the game-tying catch.


Secret Play

Matt Hasselbeck did just enough to win the game, and no play exemplified his find-a-way night like his completion to Chris Johnson just before half time. 

On 3rd-and-10 from his own 44, Hasselbeck dropped back with 29 seconds to play. With all his receivers blanked, he felt a heavy rush.

Just before crumpling under the weight of the Steelers' defenders, he shoveled the ball to Johnson.

The entire right side of the field was wide open.

With only one well-blocked defender in the frame, Johnson hustled for the first down and the sideline.

His 12-yard catch and run kept the drive alive, resulting in a Bironas field goal and a six-point lead for the Titans going into the half.


Coaching Notes

The call to kick a field goal inside the Steelers' five-yard line on 4th-and-4 was right at the edge of optimal, but considering Pittsburgh returned the favor on the next drive, it's hard to fault Munchak.

All in all, it was a clean game for the head coach who wasn't faced with too many tough choices. To his credit, he did win a replay challenge on a caught ball by Pittsburgh, though the call was obvious as it clearly hit the ground.

Keep an Eye On

So did the Titans save their season or merely stay their execution?

The Buffalo Bills will be a great test for Tennessee in Week 7. They are a mediocre team, and if the Titans have any realistic aspirations of making the postseason, beating the Bills is a must.

Tennessee still has serious improvements to make on defense. While 23 points was a season-best effort for the Titans, it only came because of repeated Steelers mistakes.

Tennessee has forced just five turnovers in six games, good for 29th in the NFL.

A home win over a struggling team represents baby steps forward for the Titans.

They need to start making larger strides, especially defensively, if they want to climb back into contention.


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