In an embarrassing 31-14 home loss to the Washington Redskins, the Titans played just one half of decent football and left Sunday's game still with just one lone victory, a fourth consecutive loss and no clear-cut answers to their many unsolved problems.
Many of the Titans' unsolved mysteries remain rooted in an offense that has been unable to consistently establish a running attack, a defense that again proved incapable of stopping the pass, and a team that has yet to put together a complete effort now five weeks into the season. "I feel as if someone came into our house and knocked our kid, our little brother on the floor, smacked my girlfriend on the [butt] and went in my refrigerator. You can't have that," linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
The main invader at the Titans' house Sunday was Redskins rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who came off the bench to engineer four touchdown drives in his first NFL game against a Titans defense that yielded 293 yards passing, forced no turnovers and got one lone sack.
It continued the baffling trend of largely untested quarterbacks from Todd Bauman to Ryan Leaf to Quincy Carter having their way with the Titans. Sunday it was made worse by the fact that it sent Tennessee to its fourth straight loss and into last place in the AFC South, before having even played a single division game.
"This thing is not about playoffs right now. It's not about the division," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "It's not about anything other than finding a way to win a game, because winning a game takes care of a lot of things."
For the Titans, there are lots of things that must be taken care of in order for the team to win. Tennessee still has not run the ball consistently as Eddie George mustered just 26 yards on 10 carries before the running game had to be abandoned yet again because of a second-half deficit. That, in turn, led to three more McNair interceptions while trying to play catch-up in the second half.
And the Titans still have yet to figure out a way to keep opposing offenses from throwing at will and especially keeping drives alive that way with third down conversions. Washington scored three of its four touchdowns through the air and kept drives alive by converting 5-of-7 third-down chances after halftime.
"You've still got to play well for 60 minutes. We played well for 30 minutes and we didn't finish it off," tight end Frank Wycheck said. "We've got to learn how to put all three phases together and keep them working for a whole game."
The Redskins, with former Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel guiding Steve Spurrier's offense in his only series of the game, marched to a 3-0 lead on James Tuthill's 31-yard field goal on the opening drive.
The score stayed that way through the first period as the Titans squandered an opportunity when Wycheck was hit by Jesse Armstead and fumbled after a reception at the Redskin 21. Tennessee took their first lead on quarterback Steve McNair's 11-yard run on a busted play in which intended receiver Wycheck turned into a lead blocker after being denied entry into his pass route.
Rookie Ramsey, who came in after Wuerffel left with a shoulder injury suffered on that first drive, regained the lead when he calmly marched the Skins 90 yards in 13 plays, capping it with a 20-yard TD throw to Rod Gardner.
That drive, and his continued success, earned him Spurrier's respect and the starting quarterback job for the foreseeable future. "Coming into the game, I didn't know that he could step in there with guys flying around him and make throws the way he did," Spurrier said. "That was crucial."
What was crucial for the Titans was to continue the momentum gained in the second quarter when McNair hit John Simon with a pass actually intended for Wycheck. The 8-yard score actually gave Tennessee a 17-14 lead and seemingly momentum for the second half.
But no sooner did the Titans gain an edge than they threw it – and eventually the game away – with a disastrous third quarter.
Ramsey took the Redskins 74 yards in 4:38 to open the half and retake the lead. Stephen Davis, who missed much of the first half with a sprained knee, scored from a yard out to put Washington in front.
On the Titans' next possession, cornerback Fred Smoot came down with the first of his two interceptions, and the Redskins were back in business, needing seven plays to go 72 yards on a Ramsey to Kevin Lockett touchdown.
"We pretty much let a third string quarterback have his way with us today," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "We can say we're a good football team all we want, but our record is what you go by and it doesn't show it."
Indeed, Spurrier reached into his bag of tricks and drove that point home with a fourth-quarter throw from Lockett to a wide-open Davis on a play where Lockett actually fumbled the lateral from Ramsey before making the TD throw.
By that point, with the Titans down 31-14, the outcome was all but determined. But the questions only grow bigger.
"Losing at home and knowing what's at stake and trying to get to 3-3 by the bye week [it's a low point]," Rolle said. "We just can't get it done right now.
"We can sit up here and talk about ‘we're going to change it,' but we never do it. It's the same thing every week."
Another incomplete performance in what is quickly becoming a lost season.
"We have to be hungry for 60 minutes, not just one half," Bulluck said. "We can't play three or five great series on defense and it's a wrap after that. We've got to go the whole game." Added tackle Fred Miller: "We're not overcoming our mistakes. That's the mark of a good and great team – all teams makes mistakes, but they overcome them. Somehow, some way, they find a way to get the job done. That's what we've got to do is get the job done."
Fisher now finds himself and the team nearly back to square one.
"We have lost six our of our last seven ballgames going back to last year. So this is not a team that has a chance to win the division right now," said Fisher, who said some personnel changes may soon be considered. "That is not to say that things won't change because we have the potential to make plays. But right now, I guess I could say we are probably underachieving."
Cornerback Mike Echols was deactivated after another stress fracture was discovered in his right leg, in addition to bursitis in his left knee. Also, defensive linemen Carlos Hall and Robaire Smith are scheduled for MRIs in their knees, thanks to injuries suffered Sunday.