Titans' late mistakes cost game, playoff control

By TERESA M. WALKER - AP Sports Writer
    2013-12-02 18:24

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Titans keep making mistakes at crucial times, and now they've lost control of their playoff destiny and possibly their last chance at a winning record.

A team that has scored 122 points in the fourth quarter this season couldn't score late, and a defense that had been so stingy couldn't get off the field when it mattered most as the Titans lost 22-14 to Indianapolis. Tennessee now has lost six of its last eight, and five of those losses have been by nine points or less.

Coach Mike Munchak said Monday they don't see some of the errors that may happen in games in practice and fix them when they do.

''It's the fact that unfortunately sometimes it's growing pains,'' Munchak said. ''Sometimes it's you ... become a better team as you grow through some of the mistakes that do happen.''

The Titans outplayed the Colts in so many categories: outgaining them 347-264 in total offense, holding the ball for nearly 34 minutes, sacking Andrew Luck five times and holding the Colts to five field goals. It wasn't enough to overcome four turnovers by Ryan Fitzpatrick, including an interception with 33 seconds left after driving to the Colts 33.

''We all know what covers up bad mistakes or mistakes is someone making a big play that overshadows some of the mistakes that are made by other teammates,'' Munchak said.

The Titans had one interception and missed chances at two others, including early in the fourth quarter when George Wilson dropped a ball that hit him in the chest. The Colts also fumbled the ball three times and recovered each one.

''Unfortunately when you lose it just makes them all worse,'' Munchak said.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said they can't point fingers at anyone because everyone took a turn making a mistake. He said the Titans are playing with passion and heart but need to correct the mental errors.

''That's been our biggest thing all season,'' Casey said. ''Mental errors when it comes to crunch time we just can't snap out of it and get these wins.''

Now the Titans (5-7) trail Baltimore and Miami, both 6-6, for the AFC's final playoff spot with four games left. They visit Denver on Sunday and a quarterback in Peyton Manning that Tennessee has struggled to beat for years. The Titans tried to sign Manning in March 2012 only to watch him pick Denver.

The Titans, who held the AFC's final playoff spot a week ago, now trail Baltimore and Miami who are both 6-6. The Ravens still must visit Detroit and Cincinnati and hosting New England. Miami finishes with trips to Pittsburgh and Buffalo and hosting New England and the Jets.

Tennessee hosts Arizona before visiting Jacksonville and home against Houston. The Titans are 0-4 in the AFC South this season and 4-12 under Munchak.

Tennessee does get safety Michael Griffin back after serving a one-game suspension against the Colts as a repeat violator of the NFL's rules protecting defenseless players. The Titans are thin at tight end with Delanie Walker being monitored after being evaluated for a concussion that knocked him out of the Colts' game, though Craig Stevens has a chance to return.

''We all got tough roads ahead,'' Munchak said. ''We've made it harder without a doubt, so we have to go win a game this weekend which most people don't think we have a chance to win. ''

Notes: QB Jake Locker talked briefly to reporters Monday for the first time since having surgery to repair his right foot last week. He said he hopes to be back on the field for minicamps next spring with a definite return for training camp. ... FB Collin Mooney was having tests on his left knee after leaving Indianapolis on crutches wearing a knee brace. Munchak said the Titans will look at the possibility of adding another fullback.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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