Coming close just doesn’t cut it in the NFL.
Though only Houston (1-9) has a worse record than Tennessee, San Francisco, New Orleans and the New York Jets, the Titans and Niners have specialized in excruciating defeats.
Tennessee has lost five straight, but each of those defeats has come by 10 points or fewer, including last Sunday’s 31-28 setback to Jacksonville—the Titans’ fourth straight home loss. Tennessee also lost by four points at St. Louis on Sept. 25.
“The guys are not giving up,” Titans quarterback Steve McNair insisted. “They still have a lot of passion for the game regardless of what our record is right now. It’s all about going out and competing week in and week out.”
The Niners haven’t had it much better. They have lost three in a row overall, and eight of nine since a surprising season-opening victory over St. Louis. San Francisco has suffered two heartbreaking home losses, including a 34-31 defeat to Dallas on Sept. 25 and last weekend’s 27-25 defeat to NFC West-leading Seattle.
The Niners actually had a chance to force overtime, but quarterback Ken Dorsey’s bid for a two-point conversion pass with 28 seconds remaining fell incomplete in the end zone.
“We fought so hard to get back,” Dorsey said after leading the Niners to two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including their first in 47 possessions dating to Oct. 23.
“The guys did such a great job fighting to get back, and to fall short like that hurts.”
San Francisco, which has won six of its last seven meetings with Tennessee, also lost defensive end Bryant Young to a torn ligament in his right knee. Young, who hasn’t missed a game since 2000, could be out for the rest of the season. He leads the team with eight sacks.
Dorsey threw for 249 yards and two scores in his second start of the year, but he could go right back to the bench if last year’s top overall pick, Alex Smith, is able to come back from a sprained tendon in his right knee.
Regardless of who is at the helm, San Francisco has the league’s lowest-rated offense, and Smith threw for only 200 yards total with no touchdowns in four games before suffering his injury Oct. 23.
Penalties have been the biggest problem for the youthful Titans, who tied a season high with 11 infractions against the Jaguars.
McNair, who threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns against Jacksonville, will be up against the league’s worst pass defense. San Francisco has surrendered 275 yards per game through the air.