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Titans escape with 35-34 win over Bills

Posted Oct 21, 2012

It was a back and forth game by the offenses, but the Titans were the team that had the ball last off a late interception and overcame a six-point deficit to win by one 35-34 over Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo’s two turnovers proved crucial as they led to 14 points in the Titans win. That included the go-ahead touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Nate Washington with a minute remaining on a 4th-and-9 play from the Bills 15-yard line.

“On that last drive, if you would’ve asked me or told me we’re putting our defense on the field with a minute to go in the game and it’s 4th-and-10 plus with a minute to go to win the game and put it away I would’ve said there’s no doubt,” said Kelvin Sheppard. “That’s just unacceptable. That’s not on Wannstedt. That’s not on any of the coaches. That’s on the players because the players were in position on almost all of those plays to make the play.”

“Lack of execution on our part all the way around in the fourth quarter,” said a despondent Chan Gailey. “That is how (we lost).”

The Bills, who were trailing for most of the game took the lead at the end of the third quarter 34-28 on a 27-yard touchdown strike from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Stevie Johnson.

In the fourth quarter however, the offenses stalled. Tennessee had to punt and turned it over on downs on their first two fourth quarter possessions. Buffalo punted on their first fourth quarter series as well, but still had the lead on their second possession of the final stanza with less than four minutes remaining.

Facing a 3rd-and-7 at their own 39 and in need of a first down to kill clock, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Donald Jones had a miscommunication as what looked like an attempted back shoulder throw was read perfectly by Titans cornerback Jason McCourty at the Tennessee 48, while Jones took his route up the sideline.

“I just got greedy in a situation that I did not have any business being greedy in,” said Fitzpatrick. “It was a dumb throw, dumb decision by me. Third down at the end of the game, game on the line, Chan (Gailey) put the ball in my hands essentially and I threw an interception. So that one hurts.”

It would prove to hurt Buffalo’s chances of winning the game as well. George Wilson had a chance to intercept a pass over the middle on third down, but could not come up with it.

That led to the critical 4th-and-9 situation at the Bills 15-yard line. Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck found Nate Washington in the back of the end zone for a huge go-ahead touchdown to re-take the lead 35-34 with 1:03 left.

“I personally feel like it was on me,” said Wilson. “I had an opportunity to get an interception and I did not come up with the ball, which would’ve sealed the victory. Those are the plays we need to make in order to be a good football team. I did not make the play and feel like this one is on me.”

The Bills tried to mount a late drive to move into field goal range, but turned it over on downs, allowing Tennessee to kneel out the clock for the one-point win.

Through the first three quarters the Bills and Titans had no problem putting up yards and points. Both teams went almost blow for blow on the scoreboard.

Tennessee scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions. Chris Johnson was a big factor early as the Titans offensive line opened up holes for the dynamic rusher. He capped the team’s first drive with a 16-yard touchdown run to put Tennessee up 7-0.

The Bills responded to that opening Titans drive with a touchdown march of their own. Ryan Fitzpatrick got off to a hot start going 5-6 passing for 50 yards including a three-yard underneath pass to Fred Jackson for the touchdown to tie it at seven with three minutes left in the first quarter.

Johnson answered right back, accounting for every yard on the second scoring drive as he ripped off an 83-yard run on the first play of the series after the kickoff for his second touchdown of the day to make it a 14-7 game. He’d finish with 195 rushing yards on just 18 carries.

“We had mistakes,” said Nick Barnett. “We went in wrong holes, did not hammer when we were supposed to be inside, just different things. We have to clean those mistakes up. Against a back like that you cannot make any mistakes.”

Fortunately Buffalo’s answer was even more immediate than Tennessee’s as Brad Smith took the ensuing kickoff 89 yards to the end zone to again tie the score (14-14) just 12 seconds after Johnson’s score.

Both the Bills’ defense and Titans’ defense had trouble getting stops the rest of the half. Tennessee jumped ahead 21-14 on a Jamie Harper one-yard run with 10 minutes left in the half, but Buffalo put together a pair of field goal drives to close out the first two quarters. Rian Lindell hit from 31 and then a 42 yarder as the first half expired to pull Buffalo to within a point at the break 21-20.

The second half did not begin as Buffalo had hoped. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t see Kamerion Wimbley coming off his blind side and he sacked the Bills signal caller and the Titans recovered at the Buffalo 32.

Matt Hasselbeck would engineer an efficient drive on the short field, with Harper ultimately converting the possession into points on his second one-yard scoring run of the day (28-20) early in the third.

But the Bills would score the next 14 points. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller proved to be too much for Tennessee’s defense as they rumbled for positive yardage in big chunks. Spiller on the first third quarter touchdown drive picked up 28 yards on four touches, but Donald Jones picked up 35 on a pair of receptions including the final 15 on a posts pattern to again bring Buffalo to within a point (28-27) with 7:52 left in the third.

“There were some great running lanes and we knew that coming in,” said C.J. Spiller, who combined with Jackson posted 141 rushing yards. “No disrespect to them, but they are not big up front, not very fast and we knew running the ball was going to be a top priority. The offensive line did a great job opening the running lanes.”

Buffalo’s defense finally got the third down stop they were looking for when Nick Barnett stopped Kenny Britt short of the first down marker.

Fitzpatrick and the offense again moved the ball right down the field. Fred Jackson and Spiller combined for 40 of the first 53 yards of the drive. Then on a 3rd-and-2 from the Titans’ 27, Fitzpatrick changed the pass route at the line pulling C.J. Spiller back into the formation sensing a Tennessee blitz and hit Stevie Johnson on a post pattern for the go-ahead score for 27 yards (34-28) with five second left in the third.

Fitzpatrick went 27-35 passing for 225 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

“He just made a bad throw at the end,” said Chan Gailey of Fitzpatrick. “Other than that he played really, really well. He made one bad throw. If you get rid of all the quarterbacks for one bad throw, you are not going to have any quarterbacks left.”

With the loss Buffalo falls to 3-4 on the season. The team has a bye in Week 8, but has a lot to fix before they begin a two-game road trip that starts in Houston in Week 9 followed by a division tilt at New England in Week 10.