Titans vs. Bills: Tennessee Can't Stop Buffalo, but They Can Outscore Them

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 22, 2012

Johnson lead the Titans over the Bills.
Johnson lead the Titans over the Bills.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The ball hopped erratically along the sidelines, flirting with the line between disaster and survival.

When Nate Washington's fumble nicked the white line, the Tennessee Titans' last hope for a win in Buffalo survived, as did their season.

Five plays later, Matt Hasselbeck found Washington in the end zone on fourth down to provide the game-winning score in a 35-34 thriller.

Any game that exciting deserves a second look.

The Real Story

These two defenses were abjectly terrible.

All game long, both teams moved the ball with ease, ripping off long drives and big plays with regularity.

Ultimately, the Titans won because they didn't turn the ball over and Buffalo did twice. Of course, it's not that Tennessee didn't cough up the ball.

They did.

It just bounced their way.

The running game carried the day as Chris Johnson's 195 rushing yards offset the combined effort of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson who piled up 141 yards of their own.

The difference between the two teams was negligible, and the Titans got the breaks they needed to sneak a win.

It's not one to be proud of if you are the Titans, but for a team fighting its way back from the brink, they'll take what they can get.


Obviously, Johnson's play drove the offense all game.

It wasn't just that he piled up big yardage. He looked fast again.

He also fought for extra yardage. On one play in particular, he was forced wide to the right, and in weeks past, he would have just stepped out of bounds for no gain or a short loss. On this day, he actually fought to stay in bounds and snaked his way for a modest gain.

He had to have known that 200 yards was possible and fought for every inch.

There were surprisingly few other "heroes" in the game. The defense did come up with two huge plays, but given how terrible the secondary and line were, it would be disingenuous to over-praise Jason McCourty or Kamerion Wimbley for their forced turnovers.


As previously mentioned, the Titans line had a miserable afternoon. Players were blown off the ball all day as the Bills piled up 166 yards on the ground at 6.9 yards a rush.

The secondary was over-generous on third downs, allowing seven conversions in 11 passing attempts.

It's difficult to take Tennessee seriously as long as they continue to give up points in bunches.

Secret Play

With Tennessee clinging to a one-point lead early in the third quarter, Hasselbeck dropped back to pass and uncorked a deep ball to Washington.

The pass was poor and hung up in the wind. Corner Aaron Williams had inside position on Washington.

Washington reached out and grabbed Williams' arm, pulling him to the ground, preventing the interception.

The officials missed the call, and on the next play, Hasselbeck kept the Titans' drive alive with a completion to Kendall Wright.

They went on to score a touchdown to take take a 28-20 lead.

Coaching Notes

Chan Gailey was a nightmare for Buffalo and likely cost his team the game with over-timid coaching, but he is not the focus of this piece.

Mike Munchak had a clean afternoon. His only critical strategy moment came when he correctly ordered his team to attempt a fourth-down conversion late in the fourth quarter.

The play was unsuccessful, but the decision to go for it was obvious.

Keep an Eye On...

Even though the Titans have won two in a row under Hasselbeck, nothing about his play suggests he should be the quarterback when Jake Locker returns.

Hasselbeck was unimpressive against Buffalo. It's not that he played poorly, but he didn't play well either. He's a great stop-gap option, but no one should mistake him for a viable solution at this stage of his career.

The Titans face a big test against a suspect Indianapolis club in Nashville in Week 8.

The Colts are not strong on either side of the ball and present an excellent opportunity for Tennessee to get back to .500.

If they can't dispatch Indy at home, the Titans won't have to worry about fighting for their playoff lives. The Colts are the kind of team that quality clubs pound when they get them at home.

If the Titans can't get to 4-4 next Sunday, it will be time to start planning for the 2013 draft.


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