About 45 minutes before kickoff, Tommy Smith and the family of late owner Bud Adams were scheduled to meet the media and take a couple of questions. Due to what was said to be a traffic delay, they didn't show up in time.
Neither did the Tennessee Titans, who turned in an embarrassingly bad performance in losing to the 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars 29-27 on Sunday.
The loss dropped to the Titans to 4-5 on the season, and while Tennessee could still make the playoffs, that notion is about as plausible right now as it was a number of years ago when Jim Mora was asked that question prior to his memorable meltdown.
The loss cost the Titans a chance to play for a share of first place Thursday night against the Colts. Tight end Delanie Walker, in his first season in Tennessee, was livid after the defeat, even nearly going down that path with a Mora-like rant in referring to the chance to play for the AFC South lead.
“It's disgusting. I'm disappointed. I'm embarrassed. A team that's 0-8 comes in here and beats us? Beats us on our home field, that's 0-8, the Jaguars? Come on,” Walker said. “Talking about first place? Talking about first place? We just got whooped by the Jaguars. We ain't talking first place no more. It's out the window. We've got to come back and play the Colts. I don't know how everybody's gonna handle it. I mean, we lost to the Jaguars.”
Tennessee had a chance late, scoring a touchdown at the 4:15 mark and cutting the lead to 22-20. The Titans got a quick defensive stop, with help from the Jaguars' play-calling that produced two incompletions on a three-and-out.
But with the ball back in their hands, Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked, fumbled and had the ball returned for a TD by Will Blackmon for the coup de grace.
For the second time in as many seasons, the Titans have lost to a terrible Jaguars team, and for the second time in three years, Tennessee has given a team its first victory of the year in a must-win situation. In 2011, the Titans committed hari kari on their playoff hopes with a loss to an 0-13 Indianapolis Colts team. Coincidentally, the Jaguars had lost 13 straight games before Sunday, when their last win came against, you guessed it, the Titans.
“We've been a part of this crap for the last three years – two years ago against the Colts, then the Jags last year and then the Jags today,” tackle Michael Roos said. “I don't know if guys think it's just gonna happen because of their record, but every Sunday there is an NFL game you're playing in, despite what their record is.”
Speaking of the Colts, they come to LP Field Thursday night having been embarrassed Sunday by the same St. Louis Rams that Tennessee knocked off last week.
Walker warned that the Titans had better have a different approach, beginning with Monday's practice.
“It's gonna be big. We've got to see who wants it. We talk a lot, but play. Show it. The talking don't do anything. The biggest kid can talk all he wants, until he gets punched in the mouth. And that's what happened,” Walker said. “I don't know. They've got to show up. I'm not used to that. I don't even know how to feel. I mean we lost to the Jaguars. It still hasn't really hit me. I don't know what we've got to do to turn that around. I wasn't here in the past. I don't know how things work here, but guys better bring it. We've got practice tomorrow and people better bring it or they're gonna get called out.”
The news for the Titans is more than just an embarrassing loss, though.
Quarterback Jake Locker, who was struggling early in the game, was knocked out with a foot injury in the first half and watched the second half in a walking boot and on crutches. After the game, Coach Mike Munchak and Locker both indicated that his chances of playing Thursday night are nearly zero. The bigger concern is that Locker could miss the remainder of the season. More tests and x-rays will be performed to determine the extent of the injury.
Tennessee's struggles – with or without Locker – show a franchise that simply continues to have inexcusable hiccups that prevent it from being a contender.
It started from the very first play from scrimmage when Chris Johnson fumbled and the Jaguars recovered at the 19-yard line. The Jaguars cashed in for a touchdown and a team that had not had any sort of lead since week five never trailed on Sunday en route to its first win.
“I was supposed to hit it up in the hole there. He just came on the outside and I didn't see him,” CJ said.
Just like Johnson didn't see the Jaguars' Paul Posluszny coming, the Titans never saw such a bad effort on the horizon in a game that meant so much against such a bad team.
“I can't explain it,” said cornerback Alterraun Verner, who had an interception to help offset the Titans' four turnovers on the day. “We just made mistakes, and if you make that many mistakes, you're not gonna win, no matter who you play.”
Indeed, the Titans battled from behind all game, and every time it seemed as if they would finally get on track, another mistake would squelch the momentum.
Tennessee trailed 20-13 and had the ball, albeit on its own 1-yard line, when rookie guard Chance Warmack was flagged for holding in the end zone. It gave the Jaguars a safety and a 22-13 lead with 7:44 to play.
The Titans crawled to within 22-20 and got the football back with 3:13 to play, when the Fitzpatrick sack and fumble play occurred, essentially sealing the game for Jacksonville.
A late consolation TD throw from Fitzpatrick to Walker accounted for the final margin, but when Jacksonville recovered an onside kick, the Titans' worst fears Sunday came to fruition.
“We should be (embarrassed). That's an 0-8 football team. That's not good. Plain and simple, they're not good. The roles were reversed. We looked like the 0-8 football team. We deserved to lose,” safety Bernard Pollard said.