Notebook: Cook's Career Day Ignites Titans to Victory

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jared Cook showed size, speed and skill down the field and across it Saturday.

He set a Titans/Oilers franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end and helped Tennessee defeat Jacksonville 23-17 at LP Field in his team's home finale.

The tight end provided catches that developed rhythm for the offense early, followed them with a dramatic 55-yard touchdown catch-and-run and helped the Titans (8-7) finish the Jaguars (4-11) with a reception on a late third down.

"It was awesome," Cook said. "I just wanted to kind of prove to the players what I could really be. Coach (Chris) Palmer kind of gave me the opportunity to do that today. He kind of mixed it up, came out gunning, so it worked to our benefit."

Cook's 169 yards broke the franchise record of 150 yards by Dave Casper on Nov. 30, 1980.

"He broke Dave Casper's record, who is a Hall of Famer and (former) teammate of mine, so that's a long-time record," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "He beat out a great football player for it. He had a huge day. We all talk about him, what a great talent he is, and today he put it all together. (We) found him, and he made the huge catch there at the end of the game. That was big for us on third down."

Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck completed a pass to Cook each of the eight times he targeted the 6-foot-5, 248-pound third-year pro. It was an encore performance to Cook's career-best nine catches for 103 yards on Dec. 18 at Indianapolis.

The most precise connection gave the Titans a 10-0 lead with 4:39 left in the first quarter. Hasselbeck fired the ball where it needed to be: over middle linebacker Paul Posluszny's head and into Cook's hands. Cook caught the ball without breaking stride, streaking toward the end zone untouched.

The only thing Titans players said needed a little work was Cook's celebratory style. He jumped as he crossed the goal line, extended his legs horizontally and landed with a thud.

"That was trash," Titans wide receiver Damian Williams said laughing. "I told my guy, 'Don't do that again. We need you for the rest of the game. That's too early for that,' but we were just happy that he got in there."

The touchdown capitalized on Jacksonville's commitment of its safeties to help cover Titans wide receivers. The coverage left Cook matched up with single coverage against Posluszny down the middle of the field, and the faster tight end accelerated past the linebacker.

"He's such a size mismatch," Williams said. "You can't put a corner on him; he's too big. You can't put a linebacker on him; he's too fast, so I think we exploited that today. … The more opportunities he gets, the better he plays."

Williams had eight catches for 83 yards, and Nate Washington added four catches for 71 yards as Hasselbeck completed 24 of 40 passes for 350 yards — his second-highest passing yardage as a Titan.

"It's great," Williams said of the versatility. "Any time you get a chance to put Cookie in those situations and he makes plays, Nate's going to draw attention, and it makes it easier for all of us when you've got to kind of pick your poison."

GRIFFIN INTERCEPTS AGAIN: Titans safety Michael Griffin recorded his second interception of the season at a critical juncture in the fourth quarter to end a scoring threat by the Jaguars.

Jacksonville received the ball at the Tennessee 18-yard-line after Morgan Trent intercepted Hasselbeck and returned the ball 22 yards. The Jaguars opted for rookie QB Blaine Gabbert to attempt a pass on fourth-and-one from the Tennessee nine-yard-line.

Cornerback Jason McCourty tipped the pass into Griffin's hands in the end zone, which resulted in a touchback. McCourty and Griffin are tied for the team lead with two interceptions each.

TITANS REMAIN IN THE HUNT: Tennessee's win kept alive its hopes of garnering the final Wild Card berth in the AFC playoffs.

The playoff picture will not be fully developed until next week's games are decided, but the Titans must win at AFC South division champ Houston (10-5) on Jan. 1 to have a shot. They also need a home loss by Cincinnati (9-6) to Baltimore (11-4), and at least one other team to finish with a 9-7 record because Cincinnati owns a two-way tiebreaker against the Titans because of the Bengals' 24-17 win in Nashville on Nov. 6.

Denver (8-7) is leading the AFC West, and Oakland (8-7) and the New York Jets (8-7) are in the mix, too. The Broncos host the Chiefs (6-9), the Raiders host the Chargers (7-8) and the Jets visit the Dolphins (5-10) in their respective regular season finales.

Griffin said the best thing the Titans can do is focus on beating Houston, which defeated the Titans 41-7 in Nashville earlier this season.

"You don't want to think about the situation right now," Griffin said. "We just go ahead and play football, and what happens when the game clock ticks zeroes, you just worry about a win. Right now, I'm thinking about (Arian) Foster, (Ben) Tate and (Derrick) Ward, three great Houston running backs. We have a big task ahead of us, so we've got a lot more to worry about than worry about playoffs."

CJ'S ANKLE HOLDS UP: Chris Johnson's ankle that he injured against the Colts didn't affect the Titans running back Saturday. Johnson had 56 yards on 15 carries and enabled Tennessee to run out the clock by getting a first down with a 13-yard rush before the two-minute warning.

Munchak said the game plan wasn't to lighten Johnson's load as much as it was to attack the Jaguars' defense by throwing the football to take advantage of injuries in Jacksonville's secondary.

The success in the passing game allowed the Titans to win in spite of 65 rushing yards, compared to 113 rushing yards for the Jaguars. It broke from the recent trend in which the team that had won the rushing yardage statistic had won nine of the previous 11 games.

BIRONAS NETS NFL RECORD: Kicker Rob Bironas gave the Titans an early lead with a 51-yard field goald with 7:05 remaining in the first quarter. The seventh-year pro set an NFL record by kicking a field goal of more than 40 yards for the ninth straight game.

Bironas moved past Jeff Wilkins (St. Louis, 2005-2006) and Morten Andersen (New Orleans, 1990-91), who kicked eight field goals of more than 40 yards in a row. He added a second 51-yard field goal with 6:16 left in the third quarter for his sixth successful kick of more than 50 yards this season.

Bironas also moved past the 100-point mark for the fifth straight season. He has 110 points this season with one game left to play.

KLUG STRIKES AGAIN: Rookie defensive tackle Karl Klug recorded his team-leading seventh sack of the season early in the third quarter when he dropped Gabbert for a loss of 11 to force a Jaguars punt.

"In college, I was never considered a pass rusher, but those sacks you know, are a team effort," Klug said. "Today on the sack I got, Dave Ball basically set the whole thing up for me. We were both in on that play, and he occupied the tackle, and when I came around, the quarterback was wide open. (Ball) did the work; I just got the credit."

HARPER SCORES FIRST TD: Rookie Jamie Harper scored his first career touchdown when he nudged the ball into the end zone from less than a yard. The TD occurred on the 10th carry of the season for Harper, who moved up the depth chart when Javon Ringer was placed on injured reserve with a hand injury.

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