Nashville, TN – Rob Bironas kicked a field goal in overtime to give Tennessee the lead and the Titans stopped Detroit on fourth down for a 44-41 win over the Lions in a game that saw just about everything.
After watching a 14-point lead evaporate in the final minute of play, including a Hail Mary on the final play of regulation that tied the game for the Lions, the Titans started overtime with the ball and were able to get a 26-yard field goal from Bironas with 10:36 left.
The drive was helped by several penalties on Detroit, including a defensive holding on a third down and a personal foul for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a pass that was ruled incomplete.
The Lions, led by Shaun Hill as Matthew Stafford left late in the game with a pulled muscle in his right leg, came back down the field and a 26-yard catch by Calvin Johnson got the ball into Tennessee territory.
Facing a 4th-and-inches at the Tennessee 7, Detroit opted to go for it. Hill quickly snapped the ball and pushed forward, but he didn't get far enough and the Titans got the win.
"The sneak was just miscommunication," said Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. "We wanted to draw them off-sides, but the crowd was loud. It was my fault, I should have called a timeout there."
Jake Locker finished with a career-high 378 yards on 29-of-42 passing with two touchdowns and the Titans (1-2) got a touchdown on a punt return, kickoff return, and fumble recovery to win after losing their first two games of the season by a combined 49 points.
Stafford left the game on while trying to chase down Alterraun Verner during a 72-yard fumble return off a strip of Brandon Pettigrew. Stafford finished the game 33-for-42 with 278 yards and a score, while Hill was 10-for-13 with two scores and 172 yards in his limited time.
Johnson had just one catch for six yards in the first half, but finished the game with 10 grabs for 164 yards and a score, while Mikel Leshoure totaled 100 yards and a score on 26 carries and had four catches for 34 yards in his NFL debut for the Lions (1-2), who have dropped two straight after winning their season-opener against St. Louis.
"I've been around a lot of crazy games, but I don't know if I've ever been in one like this," said Schwartz. "We were lucky to even be in the game at the end."
The Titans appeared to have this game wrapped up after Verner's score made it 41-27 with 1:16 to play, but the Lions came roaring back.
Hill needed just seven plays and less than one minute to find the end zone as he hit Johnson in the back from three yards out to make it a one-score game with 18 seconds to play.
The onsides kick was then sent down the right sideline and it bounced through the front line of the Titans before Amari Spievey came up with the ball at the Tennessee 46.
After the first pass fell incomplete, Hill had one chance left and he heaved it into the end zone. Luckily for the Lions, Titans defender Akeem Ayers batted the ball right into the hands of Titus Young and the game went to overtime.
"I can't even explain how happy I am right now," said Ayers. "Just getting the win, we definitely need it and there is no question we can play with any team, any week."
Tennessee started the second half with the ball and an 11-point lead. The team tried to add to it as Bironas lined up for a 41-yard field goal, but he missed it to the left and the Lions took over at their own 31.
Johnson had catches of 28, 18, and nine yards to help set up Leshoure's first career touchdown, a 1-yard run through the middle to make it a 20-16 game with 6:36 to play in the third.
Bironas had made 20 straight field prior to the miss, but he missed for a second straight time on Tennessee's next touch as his 48-yard attempt went wide to the left and Detroit again had good field position.
The Lions got down to the Tennessee eight, but a holding call pushed them back 10 yards and the team wound up settling for a 26-yard field goal from Jason Hanson to make it a one-point game with 12:39 to play in the fourth quarter.
Detroit quickly got a turnover as Kendall Wright was stripped of the ball after a catch and the Lions had it back near midfield. The ninth play of the drive saw Stafford whip a quick pass into the back of the end zone where Nate Burleson caught the ball for a 3-yard score. Burleson then caught the two- point conversion and it was a 27-20 game with 6:53 to play.
Darius Reynaud, though, took the kickoff up the middle, shifted to the right sideline and, helped by a nice block, raced into the end zone on a 105-yard score to tie the game.
After forcing a punt from Detroit, the Titans got the ball back at their own 34. After an illegal motion call, Locker lofted a pass down the left side for Nate Washington, who put his hands behind the defender's back and pulled it over before racing into the end zone on a 71-yard score and a 34-27 lead with just over three minutes to play.
Verner's score with 1:16 left appeared to seal the win, but there was still plenty of football to be played.
Detroit started the game with the ball and got a 47-yard field goal from Hanson for a 3-0 lead 3 1/2 minutes in.
Locker fumbled a snap on a shotgun play on Tennessee's following touch, and the Lions recovered near midfield. The defense held, though, and the Lions again turned to Hanson, who booted a 53-yarder for a 6-0 lead with 6:36 left in the first quarter.
The Titans answered with a nine-play drive that covered 66 yards and the foot of Bironas got the team on the board with a 31-yard field goal for a 6-3 game with 2:02 to play in the first.
Detroit was held to a three-and-out on its next touch, with a reversal of a Johnson catch on an instant replay leading to a punt.
Reynaud fielded the punt towards the left sideline and immediately tossed it over to the right side for Tommie Campbell, who ran untouched into the end zone on a 65-yard score, his first career touchdown, to give the Titans a 10-6 lead with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.
"Before Wednesday, I had never even practiced that play before," said Campbell. "The crazy part is that (Reynaud) threw the ball perfect all week and didn't have one bad throw."
Tennessee's defense continued to stymie the Lions, forcing another three-and- out and getting the ball back at its own 41. Two plays later, Locker hit Jared Cook near the Detroit 30 and he ran it in for a 61-yard score and a 17-6 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half.
The Lions got themselves back on track on their next touch and made it into the Tennessee red zone, but the drive stalled at the 15 and a 33-yard field goal from Hanson made it a 17-9 game with 6:30 left in the half.
With 2:17 to play, the Titans got the ball back at their own 10 and Locker got the ball across midfield himself on a 31-yard run. Bironas got a 38-yard kick through the uprights on the final play to give the Titans a 20-9 lead at the break.
Leshoure had suffered an Achilles injury in 2011 after getting drafted in the second round and was suspended for the first two games of this season ... Cook sat out the second half and overtime with a shoulder injury. He had four catches for 77 yards along with the score ... The teams totaled 1,020 yards of offense, 583 from the Lions ... Tennessee has won the past four games against Detroit.