The Tennessee Titans’ quest for a long-overdue division title starts Saturday night in MetLife Stadium when they take on the New York Jets in the preseason opener.
And to all of the Titans fans that will be tuning in, be sure to tip your cap to the opposing team in green when they take the field because they are indirectly responsible for Tennessee’s remarkable and rapid turnaround.
On December 14, 2014 the Tennessee Titans hosted the New York Jets in a game with no playoff implications. Both teams were 2-11 heading into the contest, and the winner would actually cost themselves a shot at a better draft position.
The game itself was as bad as the team’s collective records, but the final minutes changed the fortunes of both franchises.
The Titans held an 11-10 lead late in the fourth quarter until running back Chris Ivory put the Jets ahead 16-11 with his touchdown plunge from the 1 yard line (failed 2 point conversion).
Tennessee had the ball at midfield with 22 seconds left in the game when all hell almost broke loose.
Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst completed a pass to Dexter McCluster, who then threw a latteral to Nate Washington, who then pitched it back to Whitehurst, who then lateralled to Delanie Walker (you get all that?)
Walker then streaked down the sideline for what appeared to be the winning score until Dawan Landry made the game saving tackle at the Jets’ 9 yard line. (I still remember watching the game with my best friend, screaming at the TV for someone to tackle Walker as he barreled down the sideline).
Now why would a born and raised Tennessean root like that? Because this game was dubbed the “Suck for the Duck Bowl”….
Duck as in then-Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota…who was entering the draft the following spring and expected to be selected with one of the top two picks.
The game-saving tackle by Landry kept the Titans with the second pick in the draft, while the Jets dropped to fourth.
A few months later, of course, Tennessee got their man with the second overall pick and their record has improved each year since his arrival. Mariota was recently voted the 50th best player in the league by his peers, while the Jets are still looking for their qb of the future.
So much so that the team now appears to be in full-blown tank mode this season to ensure themselves a shot at the next great college qb.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, the Titans have an ascending young talent and face of the franchise with a realistic shot to dethrone the Houston Texans as king of the AFC South this season.
So just remember that, Titans fans, when you hear the J-E-T-S…JETS JETS JETS!!! chant bellow throughout the stadium Saturday night. You may even want to join in as a thank you for the tackle that changed Tennessee’s fortunes for the better.