Titans get most from returns
Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012 7:00 pm
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Mike Munchak believes he’s the man to coach Tennessee back to the playoffs.
His case: two wins in his final three games along with some young talent that helped the Titans become the first in NFL history with two players scoring twice each on returns.
Mike Mularkey’s argument for keeping his job in Jacksonville may be a bit tougher, especially after what happened in the season finale.
The Titans rallied with Darius Reynaud scoring on consecutive punt returns and rookie Zach Brown returning two interceptions for touchdowns Sunday in routing the Jaguars 38-20.
“Obviously, I feel I’m the guy for the job,” Munchak said. “I feel like we’re going to get this thing going … 9-7 a year ago, 6-10 not happy. But I think we’re getting the right guys here, we’re doing it the right way, so yeah obviously I think myself and the staff feel good about the direction we’re going.”
Titans owner Bud Adams will make the final decision. Jaguars owner Shad Khan has yet to put his stamp on Jacksonville, and general manager Gene Smith and Mularkey both could be gone after the team lost 12 of its final 13 games. It was the worst season in franchise history yet the Jags landed only the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Mularkey talked about how hard he and his assistants worked this season, and he defended their effort by pointing out the Jaguars played hard every week.
“There has been no give-up, there has been no quit by any of these guys,” Mularkey said. “I give them credit. I think they can walk out of this locker room, whatever their record is, with their head up knowing that they did everything they could.”
Still, Mularkey has lost 20 of his last 23 games as a head coach dating back to Buffalo, and these Jaguars lost eight games by 16 points or more.
“This is the worst season I’ve ever been a part of, and it’s extremely disappointing,” Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “To finish the season the way that we did with some of those plays it’s outrageous.”
The Titans (6-10) head into the offseason with optimism despite being outgained 375-221 in total offense with the Jaguars holding the ball for more than 32 minutes. They also set a franchise mark for most points allowed in a season, giving up 471 points.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s nice to end up with a win,” Munchak said.
The defense did sack Chad Henne seven times while picking him off three times. They did drop three other chances at interceptions before Brown picked off a pass and ran it back 79 yards for a TD. Reynaud followed with a 69-yard punt return just before halftime taking a 21-14 lead in the span of 75 seconds.
Then Reynaud got the scoring started after halftime, returning a punt 81 yards after the Jaguars went three-and-out to open the third. Two plays later, Tommie Campbell deflected a Henne pass to Brown, who ran it back 30 yards for a 35-14 lead.
“The first one I dropped it, but coach told me that he was going to throw me another one,” Brown said. “I was just waiting for me. He threw it to me two times.”
Reynaud also became the first player in franchise history to return two punts for TDs in a game and tied an NFL mark with 13 others.
Jacksonville led 14-7 with Henne tossing a 5-yard TD pass to Jordan Shipley and a 30-yarder to Justin Blackmon until the Titans defense started catching the balls they got their hands on.
“We had total control of what we were doing and we were moving the ball, so it’s on us,” Henne said.
The Jaguars made Keith Toston the fifth different running back to start a game this season, and he had a career-high 66 yards on 12 carries by halftime as the Titans missed tackles and dropped three would-be interceptions. Toston finished with 74 yards.
NOTES: Reggie Bush was the last to score on two punt returns in a game on Oct. 6, 2008. … The Titans’ previous mark for most points allowed in a season was 460 in 1983 as the then-Houston Oilers. … This was the 17th time in Tennessee history with multiple return TDs in a game. … The Titans also had three return touchdowns Sept. 23 in an overtime win over Detroit. Reynaud had a 105-yard kickoff return in that game. … Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis had a career-high 103 yards receiving.
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Published in The Messenger 12.31.12