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Titans’ QB plays worthy of game ball

Titans’ QB plays worthy of game ball
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
NASHVILLE — Owner Bud Adams presented Mike Munchak with the game ball Sunday after his first win as an NFL head coach.
Munchak might think about at least letting Matt Hasselbeck hold it for a while.
Hasselbeck threw for 358 yards and a touchdown and headlined a cast of characters that led the Tennessee Titans to an impressive 26-13 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the team’s home-opener Sunday.
The triumph came on the heels of an uninspired showing in Tennessee’s first game — a 16-14 loss at Jacksonville — and vs. a hated rival that had impressively run roughshod over Super Bowl runnerup Pittsburgh (35-7) to begin its season seven days earlier.
“What a difference a week makes, huh?” said a smiling Munchak, who got the traditional Gatorade bath afterward. “(I’m) excited. I knew it would be special because we were home for the first time. If you are going to get your first win, it is a good team to get your first win against.
“Enjoy this one, believe me, we will because of who it is.”
Simply put, the Titans bullied the bully.
Tennessee dominated both lines of scrimmage, protecting Hasselbeck from the Ravens’ noted physical defense that had no sacks, while on the other side of the ball punishing Baltimore QB Joe Flacco to the tune of three sacks and two interceptions for an offense that had three turnovers in all and was outgained by the Titans 432-229.
So dominant was Tennessee that it enjoyed a time of possession advantage of more than 10 minutes in the contest.
Hasselbeck, who signed a three-year deal in the offseason to essentially mentor 2011 first-round draft pick Jake Locker, also recorded a personal milestone in the victory when he went over the 30,000 passing yard mark for his career in the first half.
He completed 30-of-42 in all Sunday, the 22nd 300-yard game the of his career.
Kenny Britt (9 catches, 135 yards, TD) and Nate Washington (7-99) gave both Hasselbeck and Tennessee a potent one-two receiving punch and proved to be simply too good for the Ravens to stop.
“We all know he (Britt) is a special guy, a special talent,” Munchak continued. “It’s just a matter of keeping him healthy and getting him on the field.
“Nate (Washington) had a great game, too. I don’t know the last time we had 24 balls caught by receivers, or whatever we had. Both of them had some big-time catches.”
The Titans broke a 10-all halftime tie with a 75-yard, eight-play touchdown drive to open the third quarter in which Munchak may’ve put his stamp on the team.
Facing a 4th-and-1 at the Raven 10, the coach decided against a field goal try and instead ran a toss play to Javon Ringer, who darted around left end and into the endzone for a 17-10 Titan lead that they would not relinquish less than four minutes into the second half.
Ringer was in the game at that critical juncture instead of Chris Johnson, who was largely ineffective for the second straight week (53 yards) despite 24 carries.
Though maybe not headline grabbers like Hasselbeck, Britt and Washington, there were a number of other players to make critical contributions to the Titan victory.
• Derrick Morgan, Dave Ball and Karl Klug had sacks, both Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty interceptions and Jordan Babineaux a fumble recovery for a Titan defense that made both Flacco (15-for-32, 197 yards) and running back Ray Rice (13 carries, 43 yards) non-factors.
• Tight-end Jared Cook, who made likely the most spectacular catch of the day, a diving sprawl that went for 33 yards, and fullback Quinn Johnson, a late pickup just before the season began, who caught a 14-yard pass on a 4th-and-1 to seal the win with less than three minutes to play.
• Rob Bironas kicked four field goals after pushing his first attempt wide right on the first place of the second quarter.
“You can’t start a season 0-2, and we knew how important it was to win at home since I got this job. That 3-5 (last year’s home record) wasn’t going to cut it anymore,” Munchak concluded.
“We weren’t happy with the way things went last week. We were frustrated. Today, the confidence level grew as we went through the game. It was fun to watch the team come together.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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