Felled Titans fall into TO ‘Pitt’

Felled Titans fall into TO ‘Pitt’
Felled Titans fall into TO ‘Pitt’

Tennessee Titans’ safety Michael Griffin grabs Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Dennis Dixon during Sunday’s loss.
NASHVILLE — Watching Antonio Brown return the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown was bad enough for the Tennessee Titans.
It only got worse.
Much worse.
Pittsburgh forced seven turnovers and prompted Titan head coach Jeff Fisher to pull mistake-prone starting quarterback Vince Young in the fourth quarter as the Steelers beat Tennessee 19-11 Sunday at LP Field.
The Steeler defense swarmed Young and record-setting Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, more than covering for their own inept offense that produced just 127 total yards and ended up playing third-string QB Charlie Batch after starter Dennis Dixon suffered a first-half knee injury and with regular starter Ben Roethlisberger serving the second of a four-game suspension.
But Pittsburgh sacked Young and relief man Kerry Collins four times, intercepted three passes and recovered four Titan fumbles to win in what was the hottest day recorded (87 degrees at kickoff) in the 90 games played at LP Field.
Johnson, who entered the contest with 12 consecutive 100-yard rushing games, saw that streak broken after being held to 34 yards on 16 carries. He did have an 85-yard touchdown dash wiped away by penalty, one of 11 flags thrown on Tennessee in a game that saw them commit the most turnovers in a game since 2000.
Johnson was also responsible for one of the turnovers, fumbling away possession late in the first half deep inside Titan territory that led to one of four Jeff Reed field goals and a 13-3 Pittsburgh halftime lead.
“The game got off track with the opening kickoff and kind of went from there,” Fisher said afterward. “They ran a reverse. We recognized it. It was communicated, but the guy still crossed over where they were told. I thought we’d be able to overcome it. We should have overcome it.
“But seven turnovers, come on. To commit seven turnovers and still have a chance a remote chance at the end… You can’t win when you turn the ball over like that.”
Fisher turned to Collins — the Titans’ starter for the first six games last season and the entire year the season before when Young was hurt in the opener — for a spark in the fourth quarter after Young had been intercepted twice (once in the endzone) and lost a fumble after being sacked in the third period.
And though the veteran Collins engineered Tennessee to its only touchdown and got the ball back for a last-ditch rally attempt following a successful onside kick in the final minute, he also was guilty of two turnovers himself — an interception and a lost fumble.
“You know, I wasn’t concerned honestly about his (Young’s) feelings at that point,” Fisher responded, when asked if he considered the mental state of his starting QB who has had some issues in that area in the past. “I was trying to win the football game.
“And he’s our starting quarterback. He will start this week, OK? So, you know, it is not an easy thing to do to anybody. But, he is going to come back, start this week and play well.”
Young threw the first of his interceptions to the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu in the endzone when Tennessee was threatening late in the first quarter after Ron Bironas had kicked a 21-yard field goal to narrow the difference to 7-3.
Both Young and Collins were sacked twice each, with James Harrison recording three of those QB drops while forcing one fumble and recovering another.
Collins did provide some semblance of sound playmaking ability for a Titan offense that had just six first downs and 94 total yards through three quarters.
He tossed a two-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington and a subsequent two-point conversion pass to Kenny Britt to draw Tennessee within he final margin with 58 seconds to play.
The Titans got the ball back on the following kickoff when Colin Allred recovered the aforementioned onside attempt. A long pass to Washington in the endzone was broken up with 13 seconds showing and, after two false starts, a short Collins pass to Johnson saw the clock tick out when the running back was dropped at the 45 by Lawrence Timmons.
The Titan defense held up their end of the deal in the contest, limiting Pittsburgh to a paltry output while recording four sacks and a turnover of their own.
Tennessee (1-1) will play on the road for the first time this season this week, at the New York Giants.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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