|Titans WR Nate Washington might have the top catch of the first month of the NFL season but arguably didn't have the top highlight in Sunday's win. (AP)|
The Tennessee Titans set an NFL record with five touchdowns of 60 yards or more in Sunday's 44-41 overtime win over the Lions. Two of the five came on returns on special teams. It marked the first time the franchise had a punt and a kickoff return for touchdowns in the same game.
The teams combined for 46 points in the fourth quarter and six touchdowns in the final 6:53 of regulation. Lions WR Titus Young forced overtime with a 46-yard touchdown catch on a Hail Mary with no time remaining.
“I can honestly say in 30 years being around the NFL, I never saw anything close to what we experienced in this game,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said.
Here's a closer look at the five touchdowns.
1. CB Tommie Campbell, 65-yard punt return, first quarter (0:33)
When the Titans pulled off the Music City Miracle in the 1999 AFC Wild Card Game, then first-year special teams coach Alan Lowry served as the architect for the play. Lowry had the play, the Home Run Throwback, in his back pocket for a number of years. Now in his 14th season in the position, Lowry is considered one of the most highly regarded special teams coaches in the league.
There are subtle differences between Campbell's score and a 75-yard touchdown from former Titans WR Kevin Dyson that eliminated the Bills from the playoffs on January 8, 2000. Dyson received the throwback on a kickoff and found an opening on the left sideline toward the north end zone at LP Field. Campbell's touchdown came on a punt return down the right sideline in the opposite direction.
Campbell and returner Darius Reynaud rehearsed the play, Maroon 6, three times in practice in the days leading to the game. The second-year cornerback scored all three times. Reynaud also played pitch-and-catch with Campbell countless times throughout the week. Campbell constantly implored Reynaud to land the pass at his numbers or below.
“The whole time in practice it was picture perfect,” Reynaud said.
Campbell and CB Ryan Mouton ran a two-man wedge at the front of the Titans' midfield logo before breaking off on a 45-degree angle in separate directions. Reynaud caught the punt along the left sideline at the Titans' 38-yard line, ran 2 yards to the 40 and threw it back 5 yards to Campbell on the 35.
“When (Coach) called it, my heart, it just pounded,” Reynaud said. “I watched the gunners come down, they were set up just how we practiced. When I threw the ball, I knew Tommie (would score)."
As Reynaud attempted the pass, Campbell received a key block from S Jordan Babineaux. The second-year cornerback caught the pass at chest-level and had a clear path ahead of him. Campbell received another block from LB Patrick Bailey along the right sideline and sprinted in for the touchdown.
“We needed to forced them to that (left) side of the field,” Campbell said. “Once Mouton pushed them to that side, D-Ray had to make sure that he didn't throw it over my head. Then, everything else worked out.”
Six days before the Titans' opener vs. New England on Sept. 9, a blueprint of the Home Run Throwback was mistakenly left on a countertop in the Titans' auditorium. As far as we know, a conniving member of the media didn't send a copy to any of Tennessee's first-three opponents -- or the Lions, at least, might have stopped it.
2. TE Jared Cook, 61-yard catch, Second Quarter (13:00)
As eight Lions' defenders entered the box, QB Jake Locker tapped his left hip and appeared to change the play at the line. Cook lined up in trips formation to the right, and Kendall Wright received man coverage to the left. The fourth-year tight end received a free release from Lions LB Stephen Tulloch and ran a seam route along the right seam.
LT Michael Roos and LG Steve Hutchinson bought time for Locker by smothering Lions DL Sammie Hill. The fourth-year lineman lifted his arm in an attempt to block the pass, but Hutchinson slammed it down by pushing against his right shoulder. Locker slid to his left to receive a clear throwing lane and fired a dart in between SS Erik Coleman and SS Amari Spievey. Cook outmuscled Coleman, avoided a stripped fumble by Spievey and found daylight.
Cook also ran a right seam route on a 19-yard reception against the Patriots in the opener. New England pressed him at the line, however and gang-tackled him on the catch.
3. RB Darius Reynaud, 105-yard kickoff return, Fourth Quarter (6:41)
When Reynaud fielded the kickoff the Lions had just taken the lead for the first time since Campbell's touchdown. Lowry instructs his returners to take kickoffs out of the end zone when they receive it five yards deep. Like Campbell, Reynaud sprinted up the right sideline. Reynaud received a punishing block from tight end Taylor Thompson and took the return to the house.
“I saw it coming from a mile away,” Thompson said. “I was just running full speed and saw him right there.”
4. WR Nate Washington, 71-yard reception, Fourth Quarter (3:11)
With Kenny Britt and Cook nursing ankle and shoulder injuries, Washington should have been the Lions' main focus down the stretch. For some reason, though, as FOX announcer Mike Martz noted in the broadcast, Detroit employed man-coverage against the Titans throughout the final quarter. Locker again appeared to audible at the line, as he barked out “Omaha, Omaha,” a la Eli Manning.
Facing outside leverage from Lions CB Jacob Lacey, Washington reached over the lower-back of Lacey's jersey and made a circus catch. It's reminiscent of an acrobatic reception by former Alabama WR Tyrone Prothro in 2005.
“Jake trusted me and I'm grateful he did,” Washington said. “I trusted him to make that play in crunch time.”
5. CB Alterraun Verner, 72-yard fumble recovery, Fourth Quarter (1:16)
Verner appeared to have sealed the game, when he reached in and wrestled the ball away from Lions' tight end Brandon Pettigrew at the Titans' 28-yard line in the final minutes. Pettigrew didn't notice Verner when he turned toward the left sideline and in a flash the third-year cornerback committed the theft.
“I thought that was the perfect opportunity,” Verner said. “If worse comes to worst, I'm going to make the tackle. I was so focused on trying to get to the end zone. I was able to make it there, barely.”
Somehow, the Lions tied the game at 41 with two touchdowns in the final 18 seconds of regulation.
"This is a crazy league," Washington said.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Tennessee Titans, follow Matt Rybaltowski @CBSTitans.