Jim Wyatt, email@example.com
November 18, 2014
Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger (7) passes against Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison (92) and Pittsburgh inside linebacker Vince Williams (98) during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger introduced himself to the NFL with a gutsy performance on a big stage.
And for three quarters on "Monday Night Football," the Titans played better than their record suggested. It was their best effort since the season opener.
But they faded in the fourth quarter, losing 27-24 to the Steelers at LP Field in frustrating fashion.
The close loss was hardly a consolation to theTitans, now 2-8 with six games to play.
"I'd rather lose by 50 than lose by three points, like this,'' defensive lineman Sammie Hill said. "Leading like we were, we should have won this game. It stinks. We shouldn't have fallen apart like we did at the end."
The game got off to a disastrous start for the home team. Mettenberger's first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 10-0 lead.
But Mettenberger, making his third NFL start, settled down with his best performance since replacing Jake Locker last month.
The sixth-round pick from LSU was 15-of-24 passing for 263 yards, with two touchdowns, an interception and a 110.2 passer rating. After being sacked five times last week in a loss to the Ravens, he was not sacked by the Steelers.
He broke the record for most passing yards by a rookie quarterback on "Monday Night Football" while guiding the Titans to a 24-13 lead in the third quarter.
But the Steelers scored 14 unanswered points to close out the game, as Terrible Towels twirled on a cold, blustery night.
"Did you see progress today?" Mettenberger said. "We feel the same. But we are not good enough to win football games, and that is the bottom line and the most important thing. But … we are doing a lot of good things and hopefully next week we can get a win we've been working for. We did well in some aspects, but there were times when I didn't deliver a good enough ball.
"We are close, but we have to keep working."
Tackle Taylor Lewan said Mettenberger made a big step in defeat. And Lewan thinks the Titans did, too.
"The kid is a savage,'' Lewan said. "He wants to fight. He got hit once and he (cussed) the guy and played with some swagger. And it's contagious.
"I think as a team, (we) showed America we can play ball, we have the talent on this team and we have the coaches, and the people. We just have to turn these losses into wins. I really feel like we're getting better."
The Titans rallied, making it a 10-7 game on rookie Bishop Sankey's 9-yard touchdown run, and after giving up a field goal, they answered back with one of their own to make it 13-10 just before halftime.
Then lightning struck, as Mettenberger connected with wide receiver Nate Washington for an 80-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left before halftime to give the Titans a 17-13 lead.
In the third quarter, Mettenberger kept it going. He connected with tight end Chase Coffman for a 4-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-13.
The Steelers didn't fold, though, scoring on their next possession — Le'Veon Bell's 5-yard touchdown run — to make it 24-20 with 14:51 left.
The Steelers (7-4) took the lead for good a few minutes later when Ben Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 12-yard touchdown to make it 27-24 with 9:01 remaining.
The Steelers would not relinquish the momentum, grinding down the clock as the Titans were helpless to stop them.
With a kickoff temperature of 25 degrees, it was officially the coldest Titans game ever at LP Field. The large number of Steelers' fans on hand didn't seem to mind.
The Titans walked out "numb," Washington said, but for a different reason.
"We had a great opportunity to win this game," said the 10th-year pro, who spent his first four seasons with the Steelers. "Coming in here and playing just good enough is not OK for me, personally. I think we should have played better, and this is a game we could've won. To have that not happen, it hurts. We just have to find a way to make more plays."
Titans lose 27-24 against the Steelers on 'Monday Night Football' at LP Field