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Broncos Come Up Short in Nashville

Posted Sep 25, 2011

Denver falls to 1-2 on the year after Tennessee scores late to secure 17-14 win.

NASHVILLE -- With a 14-10 lead and the ball spotted at the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Denver running back Willis McGahee took a fourth-and-goal handoff attempting to put Sunday’s game in Tennessee out of reach.

Instead, it was the goal line that proved to be out of reach as the Titans defense turned McGahee away and turned the momentum en route to a 17-14 victory.

“I think at the end of the day, on the road, fourth and not even a full yard, I’d do it again next week,” Head Coach John Fox said. “We have to be able to get that and execute that and get that in. Unfortunately we didn’t.”

His quarterback echoed those sentiments.

“Any time you’re on the road and have a chance to go up 11 and put the game away you have to try to do it from half a yard,” quarterback Kyle Orton added. “We didn’t get it this time.”

Following a punt from each team, Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck lofted a 58-yard pass to tight end Craig Stevens deep down the middle as LP Field erupted. Three plays later he found tight end Daniel Graham in the end zone to put the Titans in front.

Still, the Broncos had time to construct a game-winning or game-tying drive, but the comeback came to an end when Jason Jones deflected Orton’s third-down pass into the hands of linebacker Will Witherspoon, sealing the win for Tennessee. 

“Trying to get into a little better field-goal range and had (Eric Decker) open,” Orton said of the Broncos’ final offensive play. “(Jones) just got his hand up and tipped the ball up. Not much you can do about that.”

Denver opened the scoring on their second possession of the game thanks in part to newly signed punt returner Quan Cosby, who set the Broncos up at midfield after a 30-yard return.

From there, an eight-play drive concluded with Orton firing a quick, 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Matt Willis.

Tennessee responded at the start of the second quarter, as Hasselbeck capped off an 85-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington and Rob Bironas later added a 46-yard field goal with just over a minute to go in the first half.

The teams entered their respective locker rooms with Tennessee holding a 10-7 advantage, but on their first possession of the second half, the Broncos reached the end zone through the air again.

This time Orton, who finished 24-of-39 with 174 yards, found McGahee open over the middle on the 16th play of a methodical drive for another 5-yard touchdown, giving Denver a 14-10 lead with 1:17 remaining in the third quarter.

Tennessee turned the ball over right back to Denver on the first play of their ensuing possession, as rookie linebacker Von Miller sacked Hasselback and stripped the ball loose for Derrick Harvey to make the recovery.

After the fumble recovery, Denver’s offense marched down to the 1-yard line, where McGahee ultimately was stopped short on the pivotal fourth-and-goal.

The four-point advantage held strong up until the Titans got the ball back and started a drive at their own 5-yard line with just under eight minutes to go.

The long field was cut short quickly as Stevens found a hole in the secondary and took full advantage, recording the longest play of the day with his 58-yard catch to put the Titans in position to score.

“That explosive play the tight end caught – that’s the difference,” Decker said. “We didn’t have any explosive plays today.”

“It was just busted coverage,” linebacker Joe Mays said of Stevens’ big gain. “We've got to make sure we don't have those things happen during the game, especially in crunch time like that.”

Graham’s touchdown catch shortly thereafter gave the Titans a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“You fight your rear ends off in a game and our guys did,” Fox said. “This is a tough place to play – always has been and always will be. We knew what kind of game it was going to be, so you like to get the rewards of that and we came up short.”

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