The Tennessee Titans found themselves exactly where they didn't want to be Sunday.
In a shootout with the Denver Broncos with far too few bullets to match Peyton Manning's arsenal.
The end result was a predictable, a 51-28 victory in a game that turned into a rout after the Titans had built a 21-10 lead in the first half before crumbling.
"I thought we came out and made some plays early, especially on offense: the big pass early, the good kickoff return on special teams, jumped to a lead there and got some momentum," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "But we knew, again, obviously to win here, we were going to have to make some plays, get some turnovers and things like that. I thought they did a great job handling the ball.
"They did a great job making plays, as they moved it down the field. We ended up being the team that turned it over twice. You can’t do that against this type of football team unless you’re getting some back yourself."
That loss all but ends what playoff hopes the Titans had coming into the game, except for a mathematical chance that might evolve if nearly every team in front of them collapsed.
For the Titans, that collapse is already complete, as their 3-1 start has wilted into a 5-8 record that now has Mike Munchak and his coaching staff reportedly in danger of being fired at season's end.
Whether that eventuates itself will be played out in the coming days.
On Sunday, the Titans started in promising enough fashion, as a pair of big plays led to short touchdown runs sandwiched in between a Denver TD to give Tennessee a 14-7 lead.
On the opening possession of the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick found Justin Hunter for a 57-yard gain to the Denver 3, where Shonn Greene later cashed in with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Recently signed kick returner Leon Washington set up the second touchdown for the Titans, returning the kickoff 95 yards to set up Chris Johnson's 3-yard score that put the Titans back in front.
After the Broncos closed to within 14-10, thanks to a Titans defense that played well early in the game, the Titans struck again as Greene capped a drive with a 28-yard touchdown run and a 21-10 Titans lead.
It would be one of the last highlights for the Titans, as the defense not only wore down, but hurt itself with penalties, while the offense managed just one more scoring drive the rest of the way and contributed to the demise with two costly turnovers that the Broncos easily cashed in for scores.
Denver got a touchdown throw form Manning to Julius Thomas to pull within four points, and then closed the first half as Matt Prater nailed an NFL record 64-yard field goal that trimmed the Titans' lead to 21-20.
Denver wasted little time in grabbing the lead, taking the second half kickoff and going right down the field. Demaryious Thomas' 4-yard TD grab put the Broncos up 27-21, and they never looked back.
Knowshon Moreno capped the next Broncos scoring drive that came following a Terrance Knighton interception of a Fitzpatrick pass that pushed the Denver lead to 34-21.
“We knew coming in to this game we were going to have to put the pedal to the medal all game long," Fitzpatrick said. "Even though we had a lead in the first half, we knew they [Denver Broncos] were going to put a lot of points up in the second half. We’ve seen them do that a lot this year. Obviously, with number 18 (Manning) on the other side being the playe he is and the offense they run, we knew it would have to be an error free game for us. The two turnovers gave him two extra possessions. That’s not a good thing when you’re playing against him.”
The Titans managed one more gasp as Fitzpatrick found Hunter again, this time for a 41-yard touchdown throw that momentarily put the Titans back in the game at 34-28.
But the Titans simply could not withstand the barrage of points put up by Manning, who finished the day 39 of 59 for 397 yards and four touchdowns, and was not sacked once the entire game by the Titans.
In that collapse by the Titans was also a costly Chris Johnson fumble that essentially drove the proverbial final nail not only in the game, but also in a season that has fallen flat following a 3-1 start with possible repercussions still to come.
“It definitely was frustrating. It was hard because we stopped them a couple of times on third down and then they came out on fourth down and got it. It’s definitely frustrating, because when an offense puts up that many points against you, it is definitely embarrassing,” cornerback Jason McCourty said.