TERESA M. WALKER,AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee got its first win in a game that will be remembered far longer for the crazy swings and long touchdowns.
The Titans made enough mistakes that coach Mike Munchak says he has no problem getting their attention as they try to fix what nearly cost them a much-needed victory.
“Reality hits fast when they hit the tape,” Munchak said Monday.
The Titans wound up with a 44-41 overtime win over the Detroit Lions in a game that lasted nearly 4 hours. They set an NFL record scoring five touchdowns of at least 60 yards each, only to match all of those big scoring plays almost step for step with mistakes.
Tennessee had plenty of chances to win after Darius Reynaud’s franchise-record 105-yard kick return, Nate Washington’s 71-yard catch and run TD where he snatched the ball from behind a defender, and Alterraun Verner’s 72-yard fumble return in a span of 5 minutes, 25 seconds.
The Titans also blew leads of 11 points at halftime and 14 with 1:16 left in regulation. Jake Locker lost a fumble when a shotgun snap went off his hands, and Kendall Wright, who’s leading all rookies with 14 catches, lost the ball himself after a catch.
Akeem Ayers was flagged for roughing the passer to erase Verner’s interception in the end zone inside the final minute, which Munchak called a bad decision.
“We have to play 20 more snaps, and all of a sudden all kinds of craziness happens,” Munchak said.
The Lions responded by scoring a TD with 18 seconds left. Needing only to recover the onside kick to run out the clock, the ball went off Damian Williams’ hands to Amari Spievey of Detroit, who went unblocked.
The Titans even had several defenders around the ball Shaun Hill heaved to the end zone, and Ayers knocked the ball down, only to see Titus Young catch it and fall into the end zone for the tying TD.
Defending onside kicks and last-gasp passes are practiced every week, yet Munchak said the situations are never at game speed or the stress of possibly being a final play.
“Luckily we’re going to learn from it on the winning side,” Munchak said.
Those issues are just the tip of what the Titans (1-2) still have to correct in a rough opening month to this season. After opening with New England, San Diego and Detroit, Tennessee now visits Houston, the AFC’s only undefeated team at 3-0.
The Titans were outgained 583-437 by the Lions and gave up 41 points — the most allowed by Tennessee this season, pushing the Titans to last in the NFL in points allowed per game at 37.6. Only New Orleans has given up more yards than Tennessee, whose defense spends more time on the field than anyone at 36 minutes, 42 seconds.
Verner said Monday the Titans feel a mix of every emotion after escaping with the win, including relief at finally getting that first victory.
“We’ve still got a lot of improvement to do,” he said.
Tennessee remains mired at the back of the league when it comes to running the ball, averaging only 39 yards per game. Jake Locker has led the team in rushing each game and had 35 yards on four carries, including a long of 31 against Detroit. Chris Johnson showed flashes, but lost 16 yards on two carries in overtime to finish with a measly 24 yards. He now has 45 yards on 33 carries for a 1.4-yard average, and 63 other NFL players have rushed for more yards, including 10 quarterbacks.
Munchak said he saw some encouraging signs from the run game. Center Fernando Velasco believes they’re close to clicking, even if the stats don’t prove that yet.
“I’d be lying if I said it’s not frustrating,” Velasco said. “As an offensive line, you want to rush the ball.”
The Titans couldn’t be happier at how Locker is progressing through three games as the starter. Locker is completing 64.4 percent of his passes after his accuracy had been the biggest concern. His passer rating is 91.9 with four TDs and only two interceptions, and Locker threw for a career-high 378 yards against Detroit.
Munchak said he likes how Locker is controlling the huddle, checking plays and even induced the Lions into neutral zone penalties four times with a hard count in picking up his first career win.
“This is a good one for him to get. He made a lot of good decisions,” Munchak said.
Notes: Tight end Jared Cook (left shoulder) and receiver Kenny Britt (ankle) were being checked Monday, but Munchak said he expects both to be available against Houston, though Britt might be limited in practice.
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