Titans hurt themselves - again - with turnovers

LenDale White (45 rushing yards) had fumbled only one time all season heading into Saturday's game.
Then they got to the playoffs.

The Titans cost themselves the chance to host their first AFC championship Saturday by seemingly trying to squeeze in every mistake possible into a 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

"No question," Titans quarterback Kerry Collins said. "The things we did all year to help us win ballgames we didn't do today. Turnovers, penalties, what have you. To say it's disappointing is an understatement. This is a tough one to swallow.

The Titans didn't sack rookie quarterback Joe Flacco even once after coming up with 44 during the season. LenDale White had lost only one fumble all season until he fumbled at the Ravens 15 -- one of three turnovers inside the Baltimore 15. They also had 12 penalties, and the running game evaporated when Pro Bowl rookie Chris Johnson hurt his right ankle and didn't play for most of the game.

"This obviously was a very, very difficult loss, one that was a result, as I should put it, (of) probably our own self-inflicted mistakes," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

Remember, these Titans went 13-3 and led the NFL most of the season in turnover ratio, finishing at plus-13. In this game, they didn't force a single turnover yet lost three on White's fumble, Collins' interception and the most costly -- veteran tight end Alge Crumpler's fumble a yard away from the goal line with 8:57 left in the game.

A chance at going up 14-10? Gone.

Crumpler stood near his locker and quietly answered questions, taking the blame for his fumble after being slammed by Ravens linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard to lose the ball. Crumpler said he knew how important possession was in such a tight game.

"It's a feeling I don't know when I'll ever get rid of," Crumpler said.

He wasn't alone.

The Titans had All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and end Kyle Vanden Bosch back. A defensive line that came up with 39½ sacks could not take Flacco down once.

"We had so many opportunities, and we just let it get away from us," end Jevon Kearse said.

Kicker Rob Bironas, who missed only four field goal tries all season, had the wind at his back when he pushed a 51-yard attempt just wide left after a replay challenge by Baltimore coach John Harbaugh erased a 5-yard reception by Bo Scaife for not getting his right foot down.

Losing Johnson hurt the most.

The rookie had 100 total yards with 11 carries for 72 yards and one reception for 28 and scored Tennessee's lone touchdown, an 8-yard scamper around the right side for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. He had a 4-yard carry midway through the second quarter, went to the sideline and had his right ankle retaped and tested himself.

He spent the second half wearing a parka and sipping on a hot drink.

Scott said he wouldn't feel sorry for the Titans, not with the Ravens losing five starters themselves early in the season.

"It was a physical game. We try to do this against any back. We try to make it physical, make it a rough day for them. Sometimes they don't hold up," Scott said.

Collins said losing Johnson's speed -- he ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine -- hurt.

"We still had opportunities and didn't capitalize on them," Collins said.

The loss left the Titans in shock, and linebacker Keith Bulluck said he was a bit dumbfounded.

"We had three turnovers; we gave away nine points. You understand what I'm saying? At least nine points," he said.

The Titans had rested through their regular season finale and their first-round bye after earning the AFC's No. 1 seed for the first time since 2000. Fisher denied that hurt his team Saturday, instead pointing to all the mistakes.

Now the Titans have to figure out how to deal with a second straight playoff loss in their first game. First, they have to deal with the emotions.

Fisher said this difficult loss would linger. Collins, who will be a free agent, asked if a player ever gets over a loss like this and added he didn't know.

"This one's going to sink in, and it's going to hurt for a while," Collins said.

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