Given that the Tennessee Titans allowed a safety at the very start of the season, perhaps another was to be expected.
There was no reason to think it would be so soon, though.
When Chris Johnson was tackled in the end zone early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 30-24 overtime loss to the Houston Texans, it marked just the second time in franchise history opponents recorded a safety in consecutive contests.
Only nine times, in fact, since the team was founded in 1960 have opponents scored in that manner more than once in the same season. The last was in 2004 when the Titans set a franchise record with three allowed. That also was the only other season they gave up one in consecutive games.
The current campaign opened in dubious fashion when Darius Reynaud fielded the opening kickoff at Pittsburgh with his feet in the end zone but the ball beyond the goal line. When he took a knee in an attempt to down the ball, officials huddled and eventually ruled it a safety.
Last week coach Mike Munchak called it “probably the fastest anyone’s scored in the history of the league.” The Titans had plenty of time to recover, though, and ultimately won 16-9.
They came back against Houston too. After Johnson was failed to get out of the end zone on a play from the 1-yard line with 13:26 remaining, a four-point deficit grew to six, 16-10.
The next time the offense got the ball it was right back at the 1. Tennessee promptly drove 99 yards in nine plays and took a 17-16 lead.
“We were down four then six and we’re still in a situation where you could easily win it,” Munchak said. “We just about thought we did when we made a couple plays to finally get ourselves out of the hole without having a penalty and we finished the drive. … That’s a good football team we played against. We knew they were going to make some plays on us. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and it wasn’t at parts.”
Coincidentally, before the Pittsburgh game the Titans had not allowed a safety since Dec. 19, 2004 against Oakland.
That was a month after the first back-to-back in franchise history and, similarly, they split those two games. Tackle Fred Miller fell on a fumble in the end zone during overtime against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 14. When Miller was covered, the Bears had a safety and a 19-17 victory at LP Field. The following week at Jacksonville, Steve McNair was sacked in the end zone early in the fourth quarter but McNair got those points back with a two-point conversion with 3:31 to play that capped the scoring in an 18-15 Tennessee victory.
The Titans finished 5-11 that season. They also allowed two in 1999 and won both those games on their way to the Super Bowl.
Since the start of 1999, when the team changed its nickname and colors, it is 5-3 when it allowed a safety.