Lost in the celebration of Tennessee's offensive surge in Sunday's 37-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles was another yeoman-like workday from the Titans defense.
Yes, the Eagles dominated time of possession with 33:24 on their side of the ledger. Yes, Philly converted on 10 of 18 third downs on Sunday, and put up 326 yards of total offense.
But Tennessee's defense came up big when it needed to, forcing four more turnovers, including a critical red zone fumble that thwarted a potential clinching touchdown by the Eagles in the third quarter.
And with the Eagles about to seemingly put the game away in the third quarter, it was an opportunistic play once again that allowed the Titans to stay in the game.
The Eagles were already up 16-7 and were on the doorstep of the end zone again, having reached Tennessee's 3-yard line with first-and-goal.
That's when Jason Jones penetrated the backfield and able to disrupt the handoff exchange between Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb and running back LeSean McCoy.
“I was trying to stop Kolb. I saw him and the ball off, but I was trying to get to him before he handed the ball off to McCoy to get a TFL (tackle for loss), but I timed it and messed up the handoff, and we got the ball back,” Jones said. “I think that might have been [a game saver]. That's when everything turned around. We came down and we scored right away. It was a big play. I saw the fumble. I saw McCoy mishandled it, and I was just hoping that one of our guys got the ball.”
One of his guys had the ball, and not surprisingly, it was opportunistic cornerback Alterraun Verner, who has had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries since entering the lineup four weeks ago.
“Getting the fumble did give us a momentum swing,” Verner said. “I jumped on it and I know they were trying to rip it away from me, so I was holding on for dear life.”
As were the Titans at that point. But Tennessee was able to get a field goal from that drive, and after the Eagles matched it with three points of their own, the Titans offense began to take control.
From that moment, Tennessee dominated the remainder of the football game – outscoring Philadelphia 27-3 the rest of the way, with a forced fumble from Lavelle Hawkins on a punt return and a late interception for a score by Cortland Finnegan to account for the final margin.
It was still a one-score game when Hawkins came through on special teams, jarring the ball loose from returner Jorrick Calvin where Tim Shaw recovered it at the Eagles' 33.
“It was just a play that needed to be made and I was lucky enough to be out there and make it. I was just going for the tackle, but luckily the ball came out and one of my guys came over and picked it up,” Hawkins said.
And while Kenny Britt's performance and circumstances made the highlight reels on Sunday, the defense and special teams turnovers played a key role in the victory.
“There were some key plays in this game, and you look back, and wow, we made 'em,” defensive end Jason Babin said.
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