NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The season has come down to this for the Tennessee Titans: They take the field for the final time as spoilers.
The Titans didn't appear to show up at all when they still had the slimmest of playoff hopes left playing in Kansas City, and they found themselves blown out 34-14 by the Chiefs in a game where the only thing they won was the opening toss.
Now the seventh loss in the past eight games has eliminated the Titans (6-9) from the playoffs for the fifth time in the past seven seasons.
That leaves the Titans with only one thing left, and that's trying to keep Indianapolis (9-6) from clinching yet another AFC South title at their expense.
"These guys are pros ...," coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. "It's not going to be difficult to get them to rally and get them ready to play."
That's what his Titans are saying too, though their words haven't matched their play for the past two months. They went into Kansas City needing to win out with Jacksonville and Indianapolis losing out to reach the playoffs. The Jaguars lost, but the Titans allowed the Chiefs to score on their first four possessions in building a 24-0 lead.
The Titans' day was summed up best by one injury in Kansas City.
Defensive end William Hayes suffered a concussion while sitting on the bench where he was hit in the head by a pass Kerry Collins was throwing away. Tennessee lost time of possession for a ninth straight game, and had at least eight penalties for a 10th game this season.
Fisher said he thought some of the penalties should not have been called Sunday, though cornerback Cortland Finnegan got away with grabbing Dwayne Bowe's face mask caught by a photographer but not officials. But Jason McCourty was offside when the Titans tried an onside kick after scoring to pull within 34-14.
"They know what happened (Sunday)," Fisher said. "We had a good week of practice. We didn't carry some things over into the game. They understand what happened."
Fullback Ahmard Hall said it's been devastating for a team that was considered the NFL's hottest at 5-2 with the playoffs a foregone conclusion before their six-game skid. He said all they can do now is reflect and see what went wrong. But pride will be on the line Sunday when they visit the Colts.
"You're getting paid to do this, and then you have personal pride. You never want to lose a game. Going down there and try to end the season on a positive note," Hall said.
Safety Michael Griffin whiffed as one of the last Titans with a chance to tackle Bowe on a 75-yard touchdown catch and run on third-and-19.
"Everybody wants to play. No one's quitting," Griffin said.
Fisher hinted Monday that the Titans might go with some younger players in Indianapolis but declined to give positions or names since veterans haven't been told. But Collins, who just became the 12th quarterback to throw for 40,000 yards in his career, will start Sunday.
Griffin also said he thinks players and coaches will be up for possible changes this offseason. Asked about that Monday, Fisher said that's just a natural reaction when a team loses and is eliminated from the playoffs. Owner Bud Adams, who has said he will evaluate Fisher at season's end, will have the final say there.
As for his disappointment at missing the playoffs yet again, Fisher said his comments would be obvious.
"We got off to a good start. We had issues at a number of positions, and we didn't win enough games," Fisher said.