INDIANAPOLIS _ For whatever reason, the Tennessee Titans offense didn't get the memo about exactly how important Sunday's game against Indianapolis was, as it struggled to get anything going in the 27-13 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Titans managed just one touchdown – and that in the final four minutes – against a battered and beaten Colts defense that entered the day allowing 29 points per game.
Though Titans coach Mike Munchak did not fault quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for the loss, the veteran's two interceptions, plus a Jared Cook fumble, helped Tennessee hand the Colts their first win of the season after 13 tries.
“I don't think the reason we couldn't run the football was Matt's fault,” Munchak said, describing one phase of the offense's woes.
Though neither coach nor player said so, Hasselbeck's injured left calf may have been a factor in the Titans' lackluster passing game on Sunday. Hasselbeck suffered the injury on Sunday and missed practice time on Wednesday and Thursday allowing the injury to heal.
Injury or not, the Titans passing game struggled, as Hasselback continually threw checkdowns and screen passes, never really going up top to try and stretch a Colts defense that has given up numerous big plays through the air this season.
“I don't think there's anything that's glaringly in there that told us, 'Hey, we're just gonna go to our backup quarterback as soon as the game doesn't go well and we fall behind,'” Munchak said. “That wasn't our mentality. He got us to where we are. We felt he gave us our best chance to win these last three games and have a chance to get to the playoffs, so we're not gonna pull the trigger on a guy just because we're not playing well as an offense.”
For his part, Hasselbeck took the blame for both interceptions, even though Chris Johnson perhaps could have broken up the one Jacob Lacey took back for a TD, and Hasselbeck was hit on one that Pat Angerer picked off in the end zone.
He also said that while he would have been “disappointed” if he hadn't played, that his mobility was not there. It helped lead to the decision to install rookie Jake Locker for Tennessee's final two drives.
“I don't want to make any excuses, but I'm not where I normally would be,” said Hasselbeck, who finished 27 of 40 for 223 yards. “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 he felt Hasselbeck had hurt the Titans on Sunday.
“It was something we discussed obviously,” Munchak said. “But I think the fact that we were in that position not because of the way Matt was playing. We had turnovers, the throw down the field, the Cook fumble. He got hit on the other ball. I didn't feel we were in that predicament because of the way our quarterback was playing. We just weren't playing very well.”
The coach said it had more to do with giving the Titans more mobility at the position late in the game.
“When we got to the situation where they started to drop off a lot, we're going to buy more time, take advantage of the fact that Jake could maybe move better in that phase of the game,” Munchak said.
Locker directed one scoring drive, but with the result was similar to last week against New Orleans, another red zone trip ended with a turnover on downs.
“We had a chance and we came up a little bit short,” Locker said. “It would have been nice to get it in and give ourselves an opportunity.”
As for who will start next week, with the Titans' playoff hopes still clinging by a thread, Munchak said it was too early to evaluate the matter.
“I don't know,” he said. “We haven't thought about next week yet. We have a short week coming up and we're just going to have to see where we're at.”