The comeback was something to see, although not many actually saw it.
No more than a few thousand fans remained in the seats Sunday evening when the Tennessee Titans rallied from a 17-point deficit with six minutes to play and forced overtime against the Arizona Cardinals. Michael Preston, the last wide receiver on the depth chart, scored the tying touchdown with 10 seconds left in regulation.
Ultimately, though, the result was nothing more than another bit of ignominy for the tenure of coach Mike Munchak.
The 37-34 defeat was the first under the third-year coach when the Titans scored 30 points or more. It also ended a streak of 16 consecutive victories when they reached or exceeded that point plateau. The last time Tennessee scored so many and lost was Sept. 20, 2009 against the Houston Texans.
“That’s a game we’re supposed to win,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “For us to come back 17 points down late like that, to win the toss, get the ball [to start overtime], you know be at home, all that stuff … it’s that the ending really scripted there, but unfortunately it happened.”
MOST POINTS IN LOSSES
(Titans era, 1999-2013)
38 – Dec. 13, 2004 vs. Kansas City (49-38)
38 – vs. Cleveland, Dec. 30, 2001 (41-38)
35 – Dec. 19, 2004 at Oakland (40-35)
34 – vs. Arizona, Dec. 15, 2013 (37-34 OT)
31 – vs. Houston, Sept. 20, 2009 (34-31)
30 – at New England, Oct. 5, 2002 (38-30)
Dating back to the start of the 2005 season the Titans had won 28 of their last 29 with 30 points or more. All-time during the Titans era, which began in 1999, they have gone 49-6 in such games.
Under Munchak they were 7-0, including once this season (38-13 over the New York Jets in Week 4), before they came up short against the Cardinals.
“You didn’t want it to turn out like this, but all you can do is push forward and look to the next two games and we’ll go ahead, and pull these two out,” Preston said. “It’s a sick taste in your mouth. It’s all about learning and getting better. As long as we can do that, and keep putting our best foot forward, the more the ball will bounce in our corner, eventually.”
None of this diminishes the fact that the Titans proved a point. On a cold day against a quality opponent and after most of their fans had turned their backs and walked away a lot of teams would have just counted down the final minutes and headed to the locker room.
These guys did no such thing. They showed they would compete all the way to the finish, which bodes well for the final two weeks of this season.
Yet they also showed that they could find ways to lose even when they score enough to win much more often than not.
“It just seems like we’ve been finding a different way to lose games that we’ve had a great chance of winning,” Munchak said. “It comes down to making plays as it always does. This is a game where we need to make a play in the end. … We had to earn everything we did. The guys fought back hard. They believed we would win this game.