Tennessee Titans Week 3 Review: How the Titans Beat the Lions

Quinn Cretton@@QuinnCrettonCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23:  Head coach Mike Munchak, Karl Klug #97, and Will Witherspoon #92 of the Tennessee Titans and the Titans bench react after the Titans defense held the Detroit Lions on a fourth down at LP Field on September 23, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

For a team that allowed 41 points, it seems strange that one of the keys to a victory came on the defensive side of the ball.

But for the Titans in Week 3, that was certainly the case.

Facing a potent Detroit Lions offense, the Titans managed to get off of the field regularly on third down for the first time all season, limiting Detroit to four field goals and holding the Lions to just three third-down conversions in 12 opportunities.

In the first two games of the season, Tennessee's opponents had converted 16-of-29 third downs, not only keeping the offense on the field and routinely capitalizing, but putting seven points on the board.

As a result of the strong defensive performance on third down and holding Detroit to field goals, the Titans were able to stay within one score early on in the game, and were able to take the lead with big plays down field.

Offensively and on special teams, the story of the game was the amount of big plays that allowed the Titans to take control of the game early in the second half, and survive a late onslaught by the Lions.

Starting with a 62-yard punt return touchdown that saw Darius Reynaud throw the ball across the field to Tommie Campbell, who proceeded to streak to the end zone untouched, the Titans racked up an NFL-record five touchdowns of 60 or more yards in the win.

Throughout a back-and-forth contest that saw the Titans have leads of 11 and 14 points in the second half, the Titans seemed to be able to take back momentum with a big play whenever the Lions began to take control of the game.

Not to be lost in the midst of the big plays and the thrilling comeback and overtime period is the performance of Jake Locker, who had the best day of his young career, as he piled up over 400 yards of offense with two passing touchdowns while throwing zero interceptions.

More important than the numbers was the way Locker was able to respond to adversity, making the right reads and giving his receivers chances to make plays despite a non-existent running game and a Lions team that seemed to have an answer for every scoring drive he led.

Faced with a 1st-and-15 with three minutes left in regulation in a tie game, Locker read single coverage and lofted a pass down field to Nate Washington, who was able to go over the back of the corner and make a spectacular catch, jogging into the end zone for a 71-yard score.

But that was not the end of a career day for Locker.

Following a long touchdown drive and a Hail Mary that sucked the energy out of the LP Field crowd, Locker was able to manufacture a 13-play, 72 yard drive, culminating in a 26-yard field goal by Rob Bironas that proved to be the difference in the game.

In the end, it was the defense that was able to make a critical third-down stop that sealed the victory for the Titans.

After being on the field for over 40 minutes, the Lions were in the midst of a potential game-winning drive before Ryan Mouton was able to just trip up Lions running back Mikel Leshoure just short of the first-down marker on third down, setting up the decisive fourth-down play.

With a foot to go for the first down, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz sent the offense out in an attempt to draw the Titans defense offsides and gain a free first down. However, a miscommunication between the center and quarterback led to an attempted quarterback sneak that was stuffed in the backfield by Jurrell Casey to put an end to the craziest game of this NFL season.