INDIANAPOLIS (David Climer, The Tennessean) — Stop me if you've heard this one before:
The Titans just aren't good enough to overcome significant mistakes.
As this team hits the final quarter of the season, it continues to commit the same physical errors and mental blunders that should have been exorcised in training camp.
The result: a 5-7 record and a playoff prognosis that has been downgraded from serious to critical in the aftermath of this 22-14 loss to the Colts, a defeat that left the Titans winless in what may be the weakest division in the NFL.
It's time we finally faced reality. For weeks, we've focused on the jumbled second tier of the AFC and run the numbers. Knock yourselves out. Sure, there's still a mathematical chance for the Titans because so many other teams are playing mediocre football.
But it's not going to happen. Trust me. The Titans have trouble stringing together back-to-back victories. Why should anyone expect a late-season winning streak?
"The main thing right now is making sure we finish this season as men — hard-working, prideful, determined men," wide receiver Nate Washington said.
Determination is one thing. Performance is another. Ultimately, you have to trust what you see on the field. And the Titans just don't pass the eye test.
Those four turnovers against the Colts were bad enough. Worse still were unforced errors and mistakes in judgment that have become hallmarks of this team. Sometimes the Titans can't get out of their own way.
"You would think we would be past that, but we've been killing ourselves all year," defensive end Derrick Morgan said. "It's not like we're blowing teams out. All of our games are close. When you make it close like we make it, you can't make critical mistakes."
Well said. Simply put, the Titans aren't talented enough or explosive enough to outscore such gaffes. Their margin for error is too slim. Every mistake is magnified.
Veteran George Wilson, who filled in for the suspended Michael Griffin at free safety, stepped forward and tried to shoulder the blame. He said his drop of what appeared to be a certain interception early in the fourth quarter, with the Titans trailing just 15-14, was the difference.
"I feel like this one is on me," Wilson said. "I had an opportunity to make that interception in the fourth quarter, return it to midfield and change the momentum. I've got to make that play. That's what sticks out in my mind."
Well, what sticks out in my mind is that this loss is on everybody — players and coaches alike. Forget the dropped interception. There were mistakes, glitches and bonehead plays throughout the game. Again.
Another recurring theme is the Titans' inability to close the deal. Down by one point midway through the fourth quarter, the Titans had no answers for Indianapolis' 11-play, 92-yard touchdown drive. It was painfully reminiscent of the Colts' late heroics at LP Field barely two weeks ago.
"We did not get the job done," Morgan said. "It's déjà vu — same thing as last game with them. We let 'em drive 92 yards. That's unacceptable. We've got to do a better job than that."
While everybody will remember the late-game fade, there were plenty of other noteworthy blunders and slip-ups. In many ways, the Titans' season thus far can be boiled down to the events late in the first half.
Trailing 9-7, the Titans advanced the ball to the Indianapolis 48-yard line before Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the first of his three interceptions, giving the Colts possession at their 36. Four plays later and with the Colts out of timeouts, Indy quarterback Andrew Luck completed a pass to T.Y. Hilton to the Tennessee 34 as the Lucas Oil Stadium clock melted.
But as Luck had released the pass toward the right side, Titans linebacker Moises Fokou was tangling with Colts fullback Stanley Havili near the left sideline, perhaps 50 yards away from where the ball was caught.
An unnecessary roughness penalty was assessed against Fokou, one second was put on the clock, allowing Adam Vinatieri to deliver the third of his five field goals, pushing Indy up 12-7.
It was a body blow. With the Titans' close-to-the-vest style, giving up three free points with a thoughtless lack of on-field discipline is suicidal.
Although he repeatedly answered questions about the penalty with "no comment," Fokou acknowledged it left a mark.
"It's never a good thing to give up easy points," he said. "You can't do that. You can't win doing that."
Cue Titans safety Bernard Pollard:
"We pick the wrong times to be not smart."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
David Climer's columns appear on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Contact him at 615-259-8020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.