The worst sin a football team can commit is the compound felony of being bad and boring. And in recent years, the Titans have been a lot of both.
In their heyday, the Titans force-fed their fans a Melba toast offense — bland, but filling. It wasn't always fun to watch, but winning has a way of making pabulum tolerable.
Conversely, even bad teams can get a pass from the faithful if they are aesthetically pleasing. A plague of losing seasons is eased by video-game scoring and gimmicky offenses. The team may be bad, but their flashy badness is a peculiar joy. It's this line of thinking that keeps people watching Sun Belt football and Jerry Bruckheimer films — the content is paper-thin, but the explosions look cool.
But for too long, fans of the Two-Toners at their bad and boring nadir have spent Monday like zombies, the stink of shame and stale booze oozing from their pores. They might as well have spent a glassy-eyed Sunday afternoon in the world's most regrettable strip club, dinged in the head with a ball-peen hammer while reading quarterly tax statements from a giant waste-disposal conglomerate.
Last Monday, though, things were different. Instead of a groggy civic hangover, the blue-clad faithful awoke to clear skies, buttery sunshine and fluttering Disney bluebirds. We'd fallen in love all over again.
Our shiftless, laggard lover sent us flowers on Sunday at LP Field, with a 44-41 overtime squeaker against the Lions that gave the home team their first victory of 2012. On Monday, the city had the goofy smile of Dobie Gillis with a crush. Cartoon hearts were all but spilling out of our ears.
The Titans wooed us with the kind of nail-biting, reversal-of-misfortune excitement that marked their arrival in Music City. Right from Darius Reynaud's cross-field lateral to Tommie Campbell on a punt return, they reminded us of that first miraculous time we fell hard.
Reynaud added to the love note with a 105-yard kickoff return. Then Jake Locker hit Jared Cook for a 61-yard touchdown. Not to be outdone by the tight end, Nate Washington made like Karl Wallenda on his improbable acrobatic catch for a 71-yard score of his own.
Just to make sure the defense wouldn't miss out on this sudden scoring explosion, cornerback Alterraun Verner ripped the ball free from a Lion and added a touchdown of his own.
The Nintendo-worthy output of points sent the fans into a frenzy only love renewed can inspire. Every time a Titan notched another Lion pelt on his belt, the 68,000-plus faithful danced on their chairs. If there'd been a monsoon and 68,000 umbrellas, it would have looked like a Guinness Book-sized flash mob doing its best Gene Kelly.
What a glorious feeling. We're happy again.
Ah, but those old demons crept out of the shadows. Like a wedding party using cake servers to fend off a swarm of ninjas, the Titans couldn't hold back the Lions. The Motor City badmen scored twice in the final 18 seconds of regulation — recovering a poorly played onside kick in the meantime — to send the game into overtime.
Ultimately, Rob Bironas' overtime field goal — coming after a phantom 12-yard gift from the scab officials — held up. Headlines blared like blasts from a cherub's trumpet: INSTANT CLASSIC!
That it was, no doubt.
As with many a feckless paramour, however, no lavish display of affection dismisses the underlying problem. The bad habits don't disappear, and the ingrained flaws aren't erased:
The Titans still can't run the ball. Historically, the Titans were cast as a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust team. Now? Three yards would triple Chris Johnson's average.
The Titans still can't stop anybody. The 41 points they gave up to Detroit were the most they've surrendered — and "surrender" is the proper term — in three games this year.
It's clear the team misses Colin McCarthy at linebacker. And in trying to prevent the big play, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray lined his safeties up in Goodlettsville — which is just as well, because the safeties tackle like Little Leaguers.
But refreshed love puts a shiny coat of paint on a badly built house. And that's OK — in the short term. Just don't be surprised if the old cracks in the foundation show up again next week, and the loveseat in the foyer is once again empty.
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