NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Despite losing 27-24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4), Monday Night Football provided the Titans (2-8) a much needed step in the right direction.
A frigid kickoff temperature of 25 degrees and wind chill of 16 degrees made Monday's contest the Titans coldest home game every played at LP Field.
Zach Mettenberger rebounded from a pick-six on his first pass attempt of the game to finish with a line of 15-of-24 passing for 263 yards, two touchdowns and the one pick (110.2 rating). Down 10-0 following Pittsburgh's defensive touchdown, Mettenberger responded by engineering a swift five-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a nine-yard Bishop Sankey touchdown run.
Jason McCourty intercepted Ben Roethlisberger in the Titans end zone with just 44 seconds left in the first half. On the ensuing play from Tennessee's own 20-yard line, Nate Washington burned Steelers corner William Gay for an 80-yard touchdown reception, putting the Titans up 17-13 at the half.
Tennessee continued to roll in the third quarter when Chase Coffman leaped over a pair of defenders to score his first career touchdown, putting the Titans up 24-13.
Le'Veon Bell, however, was not to be denied Monday night, as he gashed the Titans for 204 yards on 33 carries and one touchdown. The running back added two catches for 18 yards. Bell's 35 total touches were just four shy of Tennessee's 39 offensive snaps.
Stud receiver Antonio Brown extended his streak to 27 straight games with at least five receptions and 50 receiving yards. Brown finished the game with nine catches for 91 yards and the game-winning touchdown, a 12-yard scoring reception with 4:02 left in the fourth quarter.
Potent Pass Rush
The Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers battle in a Week 11 Monday Night Football game at LP Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
The Titans continued to find success getting to the quarterback, sacking Roethlisberger five times and hitting the Steelers QB eight total times. Avery Williamson led the way, continuing his impressive rookie campaign with two sacks. Shaun Phillips and Quentin Groves each had one sack, while Derrick Morgan and Wesley Woodyard each split a sack.
Groves' sack means that 15 Titans now have at least one sack on the season. As a team, Tennessee has 29 sacks this year (sixth in the NFL).
Net Passing Yards – Ten: 263 Pit: 180
Net Rushing Yards – Ten: 49 Pit: 206
Third Down Conversions – Ten: 3-8 (38%) Pit: 7-13 (54%)
Penalties (Yards) – Ten: 1 (10) Pit: 4 (39)
Mixed reviews here for the Titans. Tennessee dominated the numbers through the air, but that's in part to Le'Veon Bell's huge performance. The Steelers nearly had 200 yards more than the Titans did on the ground. On third down, Antonio Brown had four catches that moved the chains. Tennessee looks to have cleaned up its penalty issue, marking only the fourth time since 1999 the Titans have committed less than two penalties.
• Kendall Wright's four catches gave him 201 for his career, crossing the 200 reception milestone.
• Chase Coffman's four-yard touchdown in the third quarter was the first of his career.
• Nate Washington's 80-yard touchdown catch marked the longest reception/touchdown reception of his career. He now has a catch of 70-plus yards in four out of the last five seasons.
Five Things to Watch
- Play to the Whistle**
Mission accomplished here. The Titans did a good job of keeping Roethlisberger in the pocket and even when he was given time, Tennessee's secondary kept with its assignments to limit big plays. The Steelers had only one explosive pass play on the night – a 23-yard completion to Heath Miller. Big Ben finished with just 207 yards
The strong play of the Titans secondary played a huge part in the team's five sacks Monday night.
2. Protect Mettenberger
After being sacked five times against the Ravens, Mettenberger wasn't sacked a single time against the Steelers. Pittsburgh did hit the rookie five times, but Mettenberger did a much better job of getting the ball out of his hands on Monday. The offensive line providing a clean pocket to throw from is a big reason for Mettenberger's impressive stat line of 263 yards and two touchdowns.
3. Jason McCourty vs. Antonio Brown
Both guys had success Monday night. Brown had the first laugh with multiple third down catches in the first half and the last laugh with the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Brown finished the night with nine catches for 91 yards.
McCourty nabbed his third interception of the season (his first since Week 1) late in the second quarter. The pick set up Nate Washington's 80-yard touchdown to put the Titans up 17-13 at halftime.
- Establish & Maintain a Ground Game**
Bishop Sankey had over 20 yards in the first quarter for the second straight game (24 yards on four carries), but finished with only 11 carries for 38 yards. The rookie did score his second touchdown this season on a nine-yard run in the first quarter, his first at LP Field. Maintaining a consistent running game over the course of a full game continues to be a struggle for the Titans.
The streak has reached five games in which the Titans have failed to reach 100 yards rushing as a team.
5. Inactive List
Delanie Walker missed Monday's game, as the veteran tight end wasn't able to get through the league's concussion protocol. Both Dexter McCluster and Leon Washington were active, although Bishop Sankey returned kicks for the Titans. Sankey had three returns for 82 yards (27.3 yard average).
Quote of the Day
"I've been saying it since day one, the kid's a savage. He throws a pick-six on the first play of the game and it takes a lot of maturity and a lot of consistency and love for the game to not just throw it in from there. That kind of stuff will get you, and he just bounced right back and started slinging the ball. That's the kind of guy he is. I think he somewhat made a name for himself today, but we have to get the win."
– OT Taylor Lewan on QB Zach Mettenberger