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Titans Playoff Chances Take Hit in Loss to Colts

INDIANAPOLIS — The Titans struggled to hang on to the football and Colts running backs Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the resulting loss let control of their destiny in the AFC playoffs slip from their hands.

Tennessee committed three turnovers, including an interception by Matt Hasselbeck that Jacob Lacey returned 32 yards for a touchdown, and gave up 205 rushing yards to previously winless Indianapolis in a 27-13 loss. 

"That's a downer," defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. "Coming out and losing to a team that's 0-13 and they get their first win against us. It's tough, but it's something we've got to put behind us. We've still got a chance if other teams lose."

Rookie quarterback Jake Locker replaced Hasselbeck after the veteran was intercepted by Pat Angerer in the end zone with 7:27 remaining. The Titans forced a punt and got the ball back with 6:13 to go, and Locker capped an eight-play, 69-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington with 3:43 left. 

The Titans (7-7) opted to kick the ball deep and try to force another punt. Indianapolis (1-13), however, put the game away when Donald Brown broke a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, bounced to the outside and out-ran all Titans for an 80-yard touchdown run — the longest run and scoring play surrendered by Tennessee this season.

"It's very shocking," safety Michael Griffin said. "I think it's more shocking because if you look at your record, being 1-13, and we're now 7-7. Like Coach (Mike) Munchak said, we're an average football team. We can't play good football against a good team and when you go against a team that hasn't won a game, stoop down to their level. Again, nothing against the Colts. They are a good football team."

Brown finished with a career-high 161 yards on 16 carries, and Indianapolis, which entered the game fifth from the bottom of the NFL in rushing (95.2 yards per game), averaged 6 yards on 34 carries. The 205 yards rushing were the second most allowed by the Titans this season (222 against Houston) and most gained by the Colts since September 2007.

Washington was more concerned with how Tennessee's offense struggled to start the game. The Titans led 6-3 at halftime but failed to score a touchdown on their first trip to the red zone.

"Too many mental mistakes, flat out," Washington said. "From the first play of the game through the whole game, too many mental mistakes. We wanted to be a good football team and we came in here and we played like we were 0-13."

Washington extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 60, and caught seven passes for 62 yards. Washington said the mistakes and miscues were largely mental errors.

"I'm livid," Washington said. "It has nothing to do with the Indianapolis Colts. It's about how we played today. It had nothing to do with them. We played like crap today mentally on offense."

Hasselbeck, who missed Wednesday's practice and was limited Thursday with a calf injury, went 27-for-40 for 223 yards with two interceptions and a passer rating of 60.7. Locker went 11-for-16 for 108 yards with one touchdown and a passer rating of 108.3.

"I don't want to make excuses but I'm not where I normally would be," Hasselbeck said. "I don't think that is why we looked so bad today or why I didn't play well. There were a few times where I had chances to take off and run, but I wasn't able to do it."

Munchak said the switch to Locker was not because of the second interception.

"It was something we discussed, obviously, but I think the fact that we were in that position was not because of the way Matt was playing," Munchak said. "We had turnovers, we drove down the field, and the Jared Cook fumble. (Hasselbeck) got hit when he was throwing [the ball intercepted by Angerer], which ended up being underthrown, so we didn't feel really that we were in that position because of how the quarterback was playing. We just weren't playing very well at all on the offensive side of the ball."

Tennessee has not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but needs to win its last two games and for Cincinnati (8-6) and the N.Y. Jets (8-6) to lose at least one game to finish in a three-way tie at 9-7 to get in. The Bengals host Arizona Saturday and host Baltimore to finish the season, while the Jets host the N.Y. Giants Saturday before closing out at Miami. The Titans host Jacksonville (4-10) Saturday and close the regular season at Houston (10-4).

"We can't think about playoffs," Griffin said. "We've got to think about winning football games. We just lost two in a row."

COOK, HAWKINS HAVE CAREER HIGHS:  Despite the fumble, Cook recorded career highs of nine catches and 103 yards, giving him seasonal career highs of 37 catches for 527 yards.

Receiver Lavelle Hawkins also had career highs of eight catches and 88 yards. 

RUN GAME STRUGGLES:  Chris Johnson rushed 15 times for 55 yards, but 35 of those yards occurred on his only carry in the fourth quarter. The Colts held Johnson to 14 carries for 20 yards through three quarters, and the running back had three carries in the third quarter for minus-six yards.

FUMBLE LEADS TO FIELD GOAL:Rookie Akeem Ayers forced a fumble by Pierre Garcon that Titans safety Chris Hope recovered at the Indianapolis 48-yard-line.

It was the first forced fumble of the linebacker's career and gave the Titans their best starting field position of the first half and resulted in a 21-yard field goal by Rob Bironas with 25 seconds left in the first half. Bironas also had a 53-yard field goal in the first quarter.

PENALTIES STACK UP: Tennessee committed seven penalties for 70 yards. Rookie Tommie Campbell had a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties that accounted for 30 of those yards during punt coverage plays.

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