Titans Post Mortem: For the Win

The Titans on prime time is an unusual experience. It’s unusual because it doesn’t happen very often, but the socialist NFL decided that every NFL team deserves a prime-time game. I was willing and able to travel to Nashville, at great personal expense (two vacation days), to witness this surefire debacle.

I was disappointed in Steeler Nation. One of my favorite pre-game activities is quietly making fun of out-of-date jerseys. the problem with Steeler Nation is they don’t keep those embarrassing jerseys of yesteryear. They have piles of Hall of Famers and there was nary a Limus Sweed or a Mark Malone in the house.

Prime time traffic is a completely different experience. We parked about a mile further from the stadium than usual because everyone else in Nashville and possibly Pittsburgh had arrived early. I was fortunate to get there late because my cousin Damian and my uncle Jody had arrived earlier and were doing Jaeger bombs/buckets of beer at the Wild Horse Saloon.

Damian was resplendent in his Ryan Clark jersey (he’s an LSU guy) and Jody had a 1983 Terry Bradshaw throwback jersey. Shortly after we got to our seats, Damian brought me a beer. Technically I don’t know what the beer was, but trust that it was something Lite. Where else can you pay $8 for about 16 ounces of water-like brew?

Section 143 might be the quietest section in the stadium. Everyone two rows in front of us are not season-ticket holders. There were a lot of Steeler fans. If they were 30% of the crowd, they were probably 50% of the sound and they bought about 90% of the alcohol. There was a Ward, a Lambert, and a Roethlisberger in front of me. The Lambert fan had a dangly Steeler earring, a first in my experience, and what looked like a replica Super Bowl ring.

If I knew one thing, it was that the Titans were going to get pounded. I hoped to at least have a lead at some point. 3-0 midway through the first quarter was good enough for me. When Roethlisberger effortlessly hit Mike Wallace for a long touchdown, with the obligatory Michael Griffin shove into the end zone to make the score 10-3, I felt right with the world.

Any time the Titans are not getting blown out and are within one score, I don’t feel right. It’s like a hangover without the fun of drinking. This is how I felt as I kept drinking expensive cheap beer all night. Damian made friends when he wasn’t going up to smoke. At one point Damian accidentally wandered down to the other side of the field. He’s a tailgating pro who was going to fly back to Houston the following day to drive to Baton Rouge for LSU/South Carolina.

The Titans refused to be blown out. After cutting the lead to 10-6, surely the Steelers would put the game away. A blocked punt changed things. Chris Johnson, who wasn’t terrible, had a carry from the one-yard line and didn’t score. On the following play, Jamie Harper scored the Titans’ first rushing TD in a long-ass time. Rob Bironas, who doinked a short field goal off the post earlier, made a kick at the half to make it 16-10.

I kept waiting for equilibrium. The Steelers kept losing offensive linemen and running backs and it didn’t matter. Roethlisberger hit guys all day, including Heath Miller who must have a nickname that rhymes with with boo because that’s what I heard every time he caught the ball.

With 8 minutes to go, Shaun Suisham kicked a 52-yard field goal and it was 23-16. Matt Hasselbeck looked OK but not great. Kenny Britt made a couple of plays but didn’t look completely studly. Chris Johnson was sure to have a couple of eight yard losses.

Instead, Kendall Wright made a couple of catches that weren’t two-yard bubble screens and the Titans converted two third downs on the way to Kenny Britt juggling a pass before he caught it in front of Ike “Burnt Toast” Taylor.

Still, the Steelers surely would pull it off. Just throw to the tight end, who Jerry Gray still hasn’t figured out is an eligible receiver. Ben Roethlisberger somehow missed Miller on third down and Suisham was on the field for a 54-yarder. He made a 52-yarder earlier but I never felt worried that he was going to make this one. He was short, leaving the Titans only a couple of first downs from the winning score. A 92-year-old James Harrison was unable to cover Jared Cook. Cook’s mom was the honorary 12th Titan as part of the team’s giving love to breast cancer survivors. How appropriate.

Bironas made the kick. The Steeler fans were unhappy, but after a similar loss in Oakland, were not surprised.

The walk back is always nicer after a win.

Check out the pre-game commentary from Ryan Hester and Asylum Football.

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