KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ Sunday's latest lethargic performance, a 34-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, officially pulled the plug on the Tennessee Titans' 2010 season.
It not only eliminated the Titans from any sliver of playoff contention, but continued a dreadful run of seven losses in eight games that probably has players and coaches alike on notice that changes could be in the offing this off-season.
Jeff Fisher is the NFL's longest-tenured head coach with 16 full seasons at the helm, but Sunday's loss marked his 10th campaign with no postseason play in that time.
It was enough for safety Michael Griffin to say what is probably on everyone's mind as the season finishes next week in Indianapolis.
“There's no one safe,” Griffin said. “If changes are made, and if you bring in new coaches, they've got a certain defense and they've got their type of players. And if you bring in new players, they've got to bring in players to fit the system. No one is safe. It's still an evaluation and no one can give up.
“Technically, you've got to continue to play hard because you know if you're not here next year, basically you're looking for a job somewhere else next year. Right now, you just continue to play – continue to play hard and go from there.”
That means the Titans need a better performance next week, even being eliminated, than they put forth on Sunday in falling behind 24-0 to the suddenly playoff-bound Chiefs, who clinched the AFC West with their win and San Diego's loss in Cincinnati.
It was bad enough that Titans executives in the press box were shaking their heads at what they witnessed on the field in the first half.
The Titans (6-9) were listless from the outset as the Chiefs wasted no time, scoring on their first offensive series of the game and turning the game quickly into a rout.
Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel became the latest passer to rip the Titans defense for a 300-yard passing game, completing 24 of 34 passes for 314 yards. His favorite target was Dwayne Bowe, who had six catches for 153 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown that made the score 24-0 in the second quarter.
Tennessee's offense sputtered most of the day as well, except for a 53-yard touchdown catch from Kenny Britt in the first half and a penalty-aided drive in the second half that Jared Cook finished with a 22-yard TD reception.
Other than that, Sunday's game closely followed the same script as many others did in the Titans' recently halted six-game losing streak. It's a bad trend that has developed too often this season and in seasons past as well.
“I think we have the pieces. I think we have the talent. I think we've just got to focus and concentrate on doing the little things, and those little things may get swept under the rug one week because it's hidden behind a victory,” safety Chris Hope said. “But if it continues to show up week in and week out, then it becomes a problem. And I think we all just need to focus on getting those small details corrected, paying attention to what we're doing in our off-season and just continuing to work hard.”
Hope said that the same problems continue to plague the Titans and soon small details that turn into big problems wind up engulfing the season and the team.
“(It's) just the details, playing with the right leverage when you guard somebody, staying in your gap and not jumping offsides, not holding, protecting the football, all those things,” he said. “They get hidden when you win, and everybody is patting you on the back. They go unaddressed when you win, and then they start showing up continuously and it becomes who you are.”
Who the Titans are this season is an also-ran, something made abundantly clear by the Chiefs, who scored on their first four possession to essentially put the game and the Titans' season away.
“That's the formula for an L right there,” tight end Bo Scaife said. “You get down early and go out there and no execute and not play well on both sides. You've seen this before with us, and it's the same result.”
When it was over, the Titans could only wonder what happened to their season and what might happen to players and/or coaches once the off-season arrives after next Sunday.
“It's just a bunch of things that when you're going bad, it snowballs, and it's snowballed really heavily this year,” tackle Michael Roos said. “Every year something changes, a coach or two, or a player or two here or there or more than that. It's just a matter of going out and playing for each other and for pride's sake, and hopefully ruin Indianapolis' chance of making the playoffs.”
Added Griffin, regarding what has gone wrong, “I'm pretty sure this off-season we'll figure that out. But I'm not a coach. I'm just a player. I'm just doing what I'm being told. I don't know. I'm pretty sure everything will be evaluated in the off-season.”