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Titans go far enough to pass Denver

Titans go far enough to pass Denver
By KEVIN WEAKS
Messenger Sports
NASHVILLE — Tennessee could not go 99 yards while trailing in the second half. The Titans could, however, go 95.
Twice looking at almost the entire length of the field and trailing by four points, Tennessee made good on the second long trip for a 17-14 win over Denver at LP Field on Sunday.
Matt Hasselbeck used a play-action and roll-out to the right side to spring Daniel Graham for wide-open four-yard pass with 4:24 to play, capping off a 95-yard drive that needed seven plays and took 3:30 off the clock.
“When they called that play in the huddle, I knew it was coming to me and I knew I was going to make that catch,” Graham said. “I took my man inside and cut it back out and I was wide open.
“When I saw I was open, I knew the pass was coming and I was going to catch it. After I made the catch, I just reacted and threw the ball in the stands, and I hope it made some fan happy as I was at that moment.”
Denver then could not make its final minutes count as Kyle Orton’s third-and-11 pass over the middle was tipped at the line and intercepted by Will Witherspoon with 1:39 to play.
Hasselbeck showed why the Titans signed him on that game-winning scoring drive, completing 5-of-6 passes for 87 yards — the other eight were picked by byChris Johnson on a run up the middle — in a well-executed march.
The big play was a perfectly-thrown 58-yard pass to Craig Stevens that put the Titans on Denver’s 25-yard line.
Johnson, held to 21 yards on 13 carries, then had his longest run of the day, followed by a 13-yard pass to Nate Washington.
It was a good fourth quarter following a somewhat frustrating third period for the Titans’ offense, which could only stand and watch as the Broncos embarked on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ate 8:09 off the clock and resulted in a go-ahead score late in the third quarter.
Denver converted four third-down tries on the drive, including the scoring play as Orton threw to Willis McGahee over the middle for five yards at 1:17.
The score put Denver back in front at 14-10.
Denver then looked poised to put the game away when Hasselbeck was stripped of the ball on a pass attempt and Derrick Harvey recovered at the Titans’ 13-yard line. Two offsides penalties on Tennessee moved the ball to the two, but three plays failed to score and then McGahee was stopped on a fourth-down run up the middle.
“Just to get that stop like we did can show that we can be a physical defense,” tackle Jurrell Casey said. “When we saw they weren’t going for the field goal, everybody just knew they were going to pound it up the middle, so everybody just got in tight, and we made sure that they didn’t get in there (goal line). They pounded the ball all day and were very physical, but our guys up front came up and made the plays and that was one of them.”
Taking over at its own one, Tennessee could not get far out of the shadow of its own end zone before punting.
The Titans’ defense, however, held and gave the offense another chance.
This time, Tennessee was 95 yards away from a touchdown. This time, the Titans went the distance.
The winning drive finished up a good day for Hasselbeck as he completed 27of-36 passes for 311 yards and two TDs, spreading his throws out to 11 different receivers.
His play made up for a bad rushing game, Tennessee managing just 38 yards on 23 carries.
“He’s exactly what we hoped he’d be,” Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak said.
“He’s a pro and he acts like one on a daily basis. Twenty-four/seven, the guy’s great in practice, great in meetings and it extends over to the whole team, not just the offense.”
Tennessee’s game-winning score marked the final lead change in a game marked by them.
Denver struck first, getting a start with a 30-yard punt return by Quan Cosby and aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Jason Jones. Orton hit Matthew Willis for five yards at 3:45 of the first quarter for the first score.
Hasselbeck then made three big plays to help the Titans tie the game at 7-all.
He went 34 yards to Chris Johnson down the visitors’ sideline, hut Nate Washington for 16 yards on third-and-seven and finished up with 14-yard pass to Washington at 11:37 of the second.
Tennessee, which lost Kenny Britt with a knee injury on its pervious possession, took a 10-7 lead into intermission as Rob Bironas connected on a 46-yard field goal with 1:11 to play in the half. Published in The Messenger 9.26.11

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