NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans were leading midway through the fourth quarter, and had the Bills backed up, deep in their own territory.
Nissan Stadium was rocking as Buffalo lined up for a third-and-23 from its own seven, with 8:17 remaining. A stop and the Titans would get the ball back in good field position, already leading 13-7.
Then Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor escaped up the middle for a 24-yard run. Tack on linebacker Zach Brown's horse-collar tackle on Taylor and the Bills were on their way to an eventual game-winning touchdown in Sunday's 14-13 win over the Titans.
In Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey's mind, it was the biggest play – and biggest mistake – of the game.
"I take the blame on that play. Coaches called a play, and I did the wrong thing on the play. I allowed him to escape up the middle on us and he made a big play and put us in a bad situation,'' Casey said. "I know the coaches trusted on us to get the job done and I let the game slip through my fingers and not make the play when I needed to. I put us in a bad situation.'"
Casey said the Titans were playing man-to-man defense in the secondary, so the defensive backs had their backs turned. Casey was lined up in the middle of the defense on the play in question.
"Coaches relied on us as a front four to keep him in the pocket,'' Casey said, "and I got out of my rush lane and allowed the quarterback to run down the middle on us."
It was an otherwise great day for Casey, who had 1.5 sacks and six tackles. He showed up rushing the passer and also in run defense throughout.
In reality, the Titans allowed other big plays on defense as the game slipped away. Taylor connected with receiver Chris Hogan on a 46-yard completion on the same drive, and he found Hogan open in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown to put the Bills ahead.
Taylor scored on a 22-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
"It seems like we wait until the end to get beat, or get beat for big plays,'' linebacker Derrick Morgan said. "That's on us as an entire defense. We have to get there faster on those long runs and play better overall.
"That's on us as a defense. We have to execute in those situations."
Overall, it was a solid day for the defense. The Titans allowed only 209 yards against the Bills, the lowest total by a Titans opponent since the Steelers had 194 yards in the 2013 season opener in Pittsburgh (Sept. 8).
The 209 yards allowed against the Bills were the fewest allowed in a Titans home game since the Steelers had 127 yards at Nissan Stadium on Sept. 19, 2010.
The Titans defense allowed only 82 passing yards to the Bills. It was the Titans pass defense's best performance since Dec. 18, 2011, when the unit gave up 82 passing yards at Indianapolis. The mark ties for the seventh-lowest by the defense in the Titans era (1999-present).
The Bills managed just 13 first downs in the game, and didn't cross midfield until the third quarter.
Still, there was disappointment among defenders. The Titans allowed big plays in losses to the Browns and Colts as well.
"It is very disappointing,'' Casey said. "I was telling the defense when we came in, as a defense we have to put this on our shoulders. We let this team come back on us when we should've won. We had a chance to make plays, and we couldn't do it."
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said the defense did its job, with the exception of some late mistakes.
"If we would have done a little bit more offensively we would be saying what a great defensive effort it was,'' Whisenhunt said. "So, they've got some players. He (Tyrod Taylor) made some plays. Obviously the third-and-23 was something we can't do. The long pass, those are things that are keeping us from winning games right now.
"When you lose a game like this, it's really easy to talk about negatives, I understand that, because listen, we didn't win, and that's hard. I think it's a mistake to overlook the fact that there's some guys that are really doing good things for us and if we continue on that course, we're going to win games. Our guys in the locker room believe it, I know we believe it. It's tough, damn tough right now, it's no fun. I feel for our fans, I feel for our players, but you know what, it's four games into the season, we've got 12 more and we feel like we're going to be a very good football team."