NASHVILLE, TN, Nov. 24, 2008 — Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch had predicted the Titans would lose at least once this season.
The Titans are regrouping quickly with Thursday's Thanksgiving game at Detroit just three days away.
Well, now they have, and all that talk of chasing perfection is over for Tennessee. The Titans face a new challenge of regrouping from a 34-13 loss to the New York Jets that was their first this season —and worst going back to November 2007. They are on a short week that features a trip to winless Detroit on Thursday.
"So now we've got a little more on the line," Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "The stakes are higher; tune up the heat a little bit. I don't think they're gaining. Yeah, in the standings. But football is a mentality, and I think a game like this toughens an already tough team. The great thing about it is we get to play on Thursday and see what's up."
It's not like the Titans were taking themselves seriously as a threat to either the 1972 Miami Dolphins or last season's 18-1 New England Patriots even after becoming only the 11th team to start 10-0 since 1970.
"We weren't worried about being undefeated," defensive tackle Tony Brown said. "We were trying to win as many games as we could. ... (Sunday) was a good test for us. It's going to test our courage and how we're going to bounce back."
The schedule plays in the Titans' favor as they recover from a loss that snapped a 13-game winning streak that started Dec. 16, 2007. Fly to Detroit on Wednesday and take some anger out on the 0-11 Lions. Take a long weekend to rest and heal up, then host Cleveland (4-7) on Dec. 7, followed by a trip to Houston (4-7).
"We have 10 wins, and you can't take that away from us," defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said. "Now we've got five more games, and we have to go out there and play."
The Titans won't play another team with a winning record until Dec. 21 when Pittsburgh (8-3) visits. They still have a two-game lead in the AFC for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, with a three-game lead over Indianapolis (7-4) and looking for their first AFC South title since 2002.
"We are still in the driver's seat, and everybody else is playing catch-up," Bulluck said.
That doesn't mean the Jets didn't point out some problem areas for the Titans to fix _ and soon.
Tennessee was missing only backup tackle Jason Jones off the line of a defense that hadn't allowed more than 26 points in their 13-game winning streak. The Titans hadn't given up as many as 34 since a 35-6 loss at Cincinnati on Nov. 25, 2006 in a game Haynesworth missed with a strained hamstring.
Chris Carr started in place of left cornerback Nick Harper, but his two pass interference penalties were among eight for a team that has been flagged at least that many times in each of the past three games.
The Titans simply missed tackles and filled the wrong gaps in giving up a season-high 409 yards, with 192 yards rushing _ the most allowed since Jacksonville ran for 202 in a Tennessee win on Dec. 17, 2006.
"We didn't show up," said Haynesworth, who had 1 1/2 sacks. "We didn't play nowhere near as we could play."
The offense didn't help, either. The Titans couldn't hold onto passes and had 88 net yards over 10 minutes, 29 seconds of the first half. The Jets held the ball for the first seven minutes of the third quarter. When the Titans got it back, they held it for a mere 3:18 of the third in falling behind 20-6.
A rushing attack averaging 132.7 yards and ranked seventh in the NFL had a season-worst 45 yards. LenDale White was on the field for a short series of three plays in which he dropped a pass and was stopped for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1. Chris Johnson, the AFC's second-leading rusher, fumbled for the first time this season.
Defensive end Jevon Kearse said it's good to play again in only four days after the first loss.
"Now that we've got it out of the way, now it is just time to, as coach Fisher said, `Turn on the short-term memory.' Forget about this one, and get ready to start another tradition," Kearse said.