This had to be the NFL's game of the year

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This had to be the NFL's game of the year

From Comcast SportsNetNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Call this one Music City Mayhem.The Tennessee Titans are winless no more after an unforgettable overtime victory over Detroit featuring an endless stream of big plays, some suspect officiating and a huge mistake by the Lions on the final play.Rob Bironas kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime, and the Titans stopped backup quarterback Shaun Hill on fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 7 to finally pull out a 44-41 win Sunday where the Lions messed up trying to draw the defense offside."Obviously, there was a miscommunication, or I don't know what you call it, from an enforcement standpoint," coach Jim Schwartz said.The Titans (1-2) blew a 20-9 halftime lead in a game featuring wild scoring swings. They became the first NFL team to score five touchdowns of 60 yards or longer in a single game."Piece of cake," Titans quarterback Jake Locker said with a smile.Detroit scored 18 straight points, then Tennessee answered with 21 points before the Lions scored the final 14 of regulation in a span of 18 seconds-- the first team to do that and force overtime in league history.The touchdown that forced overtime came on a tipped desperation pass after Detroit recovered an onside kick and got an assist from the replacement officials who did not review a possible turnover."Both of us looked at each other and said, We've never been through something like this in our lives,' " Titans coach Mike Munchak said of Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, a former colleague in Nashville. "It's hard to put in words what to say about that. We both could've won in so many ways."Schwartz's Lions picked up the nickname Comeback Cats last season with four rallies for victory from 13 points or more down."I've never been around one like that," Schwartz said.A total of 46 points came in the fourth period. Then in overtime, Bironas' third field goal put Tennessee ahead to stay after a drive that got its own boost from the officials.They announced a replay review had overturned their ruling of a catch by Tennessee tight end Craig Stevens, with the ball hitting the ground as he rolled after being hit helmet to helmet by Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch.After spending several minutes discussing where to place the ball, they put it at the Lions 29, giving the Titans 27 yards. The penalty apparently was marched off from the Detroit 44 instead of the Tennessee 44, where the play started.The Lions (1-2) lost their second straight when Schwartz decided not to let Jason Hanson kick his fifth field goal. Hill, in for injured Matthew Stafford, was stopped by defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Sen'Derrick Marks on his sneak, and Tennessee escaped, celebrating wildly even as an official stood over the ball before a replay review was announced."I'm very exhausted right now," Casey said.The Titans had stopped Mikel Leshoure for a 7-yard reception about a foot short on third down. Schwartz said he was preparing to call a timeout to kick the field goal and wanted first to try getting the Titans to jump offside."The crowd was loud," Schwartz said. "If they didn't jump, we were just going to take the timeout. The ball ended up getting snapped. We needed that, obviously, to make sure all 11 guys get the calls right there and be able to play it."Hill took the blame."It's up to the quarterback to get all 11 on the same page, for sure," Hill said. "I'll just leave it at that. It was on me."Players from both teams met in the middle of the field talking and shaking hands before an official finally announced the game that lasted 3 hours, 51 minutes was over.The game featured six plays of 46 yards or longer, with the Titans having five of those -- all 61 or longer. The Titans even had three of those 71 yards or longer.Hill's 46-yard TD pass to Titus Young off a ball Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers tried to knock down at the end of regulation tied the game only after some more confusing officiating."The guy came out of nowhere and caught the ball," Ayers said.After Hill tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson with 18 seconds left, Amari Spievey recovered Detroit's onside kick. Hill threw a short pass to the sideline to Nate Burleson who took at least a step before losing the ball when hit by Titans cornerback Jason McCourty.An official threw down his bean bag, indicating a change of possession. Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner picked up the ball and started to run to the end zone before another official ran up and called it incomplete.Because it was in the final 2 minutes, a review is left up to the officials and coaches cannot challenge. No replay review was done.Officials had other issues in this game, including twice announcing the offense would replay third down when it was obvious the defense wanted to decline a penalty to force fourth down."I may not agree with some of the things but ultimately, I thought they had control," Munchak said.Early on came shades of the most famous play in Titans history, the Music City Miracle to lift them past Buffalo in a January 2000 playoff game. Tommie Campbell caught a lateral from Darius Reynaud on a punt return and ran it 65 yards for a TD in the first quarter for Tennessee.Reynaud had never thrown a pass in a game going back to high school."D-Rey had to make sure that he didn't throw it over my head," Campbell said. "Then after that, everything else worked out."Jared Cook caught a 61-yard TD pass from Locker in the second period as the Titans went up 20-9 at halftime.Reynaud also set a Tennessee record returning a kickoff 105 yards to tie it at 27. Ayers then sacked Stafford, forcing the Lions to punt, and Locker found Nate Washington, who plucked the ball from behind cornerback Jacob Lacey's back and ran 71 yards for the go-ahead TD with 3:11 left.Verner grabbed the ball from Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew and ran it 72 yards on the play Stafford pulled up limping as he chased the cornerback. That seemed like the clinching TD with 1:16 left in regulation and only wound up setting the scene for more chaos.Locker finished 29 for 42 for 378 yards and two TDs. Stafford went 33 of 42 for 278 yards and a touchdown.Notes: Leshoure ran for 100 yards in his NFL debut. The Lions running back missed his rookie season with an Achilles' tendon injury and was suspended for the first two games of this season. ... Campbell got his second career TD off a kick or punt return he did not field. He scored on a reverse off a kickoff last season as a rookie. ... With his third field goal, Hanson passed Matt Stover for fourth all-time with 472s. ... Bironas kicked a 38-yard field goal at the end of the first half to tie the franchise record with his 20th straight kick. He missed a chance to have the record alone when a 41-yarder was wide left in the third quarter. Bironas missed another field goal in the third, the first time he's missed two in a game since Sept. 10, 2009.

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

FOXBORO -- There’s this book called “The Obstacle is the Way,” written by an author named Ryan Holiday.

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

Therein, the 29-year-old author explains how many highly successful people use adversity as a springboard. Holiday explains that dwelling on impediments to success -- whether they be personal shortcomings, daily challenges that confront us or just bad luck -- hinders our ability to accept them and move on undeterred . . . which is critical to success.  

It’s a book I first became aware of when reading a feature on John Schneider, the Seahawks GM. Schneider said he was told about the book by Bill Belichick confidante and former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi in 2015.

“[Lombardi] said, 'That's really where you would get a great vibe for what [Belichick] is like and what his philosophy is and how he approaches life and his football culture and all. I went out and purchased it right away, and it was awesome.”

The book came to mind last week when Mike Tomlin, in his postgame address to his team, lamented that the Patriots were “a day-and-a-half” ahead of Pittsburgh in prep time and that the Steelers wouldn’t be back in Pennsylvania until 4 a.m.

Already there was that “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’ . . . ” woe-is-me approach that gave not just Tomlin an issue to fixate upon, but his players as well. Kind of like the idle intimation Tomlin made after the 2015 opener that the Steelers headsets gave them issues.

Of course, by Monday morning, the Steelers had more to deal with, as Antonio Brown broadcast live 17 minutes of locker-room footage. The Steelers fixated on that through Wednesday. Then the flu descended on their locker room and reportedly affected 15 players. Early Sunday morning, the Steelers had the fire alarm pulled at their hotel and -- even though they didn’t evacuate -- it’s shaping up as something the Steelers will be muttering about for weeks.

Or even years. They still think they got jobbed out of a Super Bowl by “Spygate” even though the 2001 Patriots beat them because of two special-teams touchdowns more than anything having to do with alleged taped signals.

Contrast that with the Patriots. After they sat on the tarmac in Providence for three hours on New Year’s Eve waiting to take off for the finale in Miami, Tom Brady talked about the opportunity the delay afforded the team to catch up on rest or preparation.

It’s just the way the Patriots have been hard-wired since Belichick took over. Screw the mottos, like “Do Your Job” or the hokey “One More”. (Can someone tell me that if “One More” occurs, what's next year’s saying? “One More One More?”) If there’s been a mantra for success that underpins everything the Patriots have been about it would be: “It is what it is.”

Quarterbacks coach passes away? (Dick Rehbein in 2001.) Very sad. But it is what it is. Starting quarterback has artery sheared? (Drew Bledsoe in 2001.) Is what it is. A league-sponsored witch hunt is carried out prior to the Super Bowl with the starting quarterback in the crosshairs? (Deflategate/Tom Brady in 2015.) It is what it is. That quarterback’s ultimately yanked off the field for four games? (Brady's suspension, 2016.) Is what it is.

Bill Parcells once said, “If you give a team an excuse they will take it every time.”

So it was with that in mind when the Patriots in 2003 boarded a plane for Miami and Belichick told them they were going down there to win and that he “didn’t want to hear about the heat or the plane ride or the f****** orange juice.” The Patriots got the point and extracted a 19-13 overtime win -- the first time they’d won there under Belichick.

The Patriots have had plenty of fire alarms pulled on them over the years -- three times during their week in Indy prior to Super Bowl 46, at least once in Arizona prior to SB49 -- and never did those cause the outcry that this minor disturbance caused.

That has to do with the mythology around the Patriots and Belichick that’s grown and festered for a decade-and-a-half.  The rest of the paranoid NFL imagines a KGB-style intelligence agency and wound up more concerned with the Patriots than readying a great team tto unseat them. Which is handy when explaining to your owner why the Patriots routinely win at the rate that they do. They cheat. What better way to cover your ass?

It can work for a while, right Ryan Grigson?

Another pro sports dynasty that enjoyed the kind of long-term dominance New England's in the midst of also won a lot of games because opponents got spooked by dead spots in the floor, hot locker rooms and cold showers in the original Boston Garden.

In other words, this mental tenderness exhibited by teams that choose to rage at the unfairness of it all rather than laugh and soldier on is nothing new.

Today, the ill-feeling, sleep-deprived, Steelers -- who had to cram their preparation around the distraction caused by a great player -- will play their most important game in six years.

God willing, the headsets work.