Nashville, TN – On the field, the Tennessee Titans were optimistic about their fortunes in 2013 after a 3-1 start, which included a 16-9 victory in the opener at the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Titans became the first opponent to win in the Steelers’ home opener since 2002.
After an overtime loss in Week 2 at the Houston Texans, the Titans played their home opener against the San Diego Chargers, and Ken Whisenhunt, at the time the offensive coordinator for the Chargers, got a first-hand look at one of the Titans’ most dramatic wins ever at LP Field.
Trailing 17-13 with 2:05 on the clock in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jake Locker began to drive the Titans from their own six-yard line. Ten plays later, he launched a 34-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter for the win.
The next week against the New York Jets, Locker and the Titans continued their momentum, building a 24-6 lead in the first half. However, early in the third quarter, Locker’s day came to an end when he injured a knee and hip on the same play.
With Locker starting the first four games, the Titans became only the second NFL team in the Super Bowl era (1966-present) to go four straight weeks at the beginning of the season without committing a turnover. The 1995 St. Louis Rams were the only previous team to accomplish the feat.
Although Ryan Fitzpatrick came off the bench to seal the 38-13 win against the Jets, the Titans committed turnovers and suffered losses in their next two games with Locker out of the lineup—against the Kansas City Chiefs and at the Seattle Seahawks.
Locker returned the following week against the San Francisco 49ers but was unable to reverse the tide, as the Titans lost their third consecutive game.
After a Week 8 bye, the Titans got back in the win column with a 28-21 win at St. Louis. Chris Johnson rushed for a season-high 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Rams, including the game winner from 19 yards in the fourth quarter.
The Titans were 4-4, facing consecutive home games against divisional opponents. But on November 11th against the Jacksonville Jaguars, misfortune descended upon the Titans and Locker once again. In the second quarter, Locker was removed from the contest due to a problem with his right foot.
It was later revealed that he suffered a Lisfranc injury, which would require surgery and end his season. The Titans lost the game against the Jaguars and the ensuing matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.
Locker, the former eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, appeared in seven total games in his third NFL season, completing 111 of 183 passes for 1,256 yards, eight touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 86.7. At the time of his season-ending injury, he ranked fourth in the NFL in third-down passer rating (103.7) and eighth in the league in fourth-quarter passer rating (105.9).
Fitzpatrick’s most thrilling finish came November 24th at the Oakland, when he passed for 320 yards against the Raiders, including a 10-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Kendall Wright in the final seconds. The victory marked the first time the Titans had a 300-yard passer and two 100-yard receivers (103 by Wright, 109 by Hunter) since 2004.
Two seasons into his career, Wright has put up reception numbers that put him in elite company. He is the first player in franchise history to lead the team in receptions in each of his first two NFL campaigns, and his 158 catches in that span were the most in team annals for a player’s first two campaigns. In 2013, he ranked seventh in the NFL, led the team and finished fifth in franchise history with 94 catches for a team-high 1,079 receiving yards.
Wright and Justin Hunter (18 receptions for 354 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie) were two of the quarterbacks’ top targets, but others excelled as well, such as Delanie Walker. An unrestricted free agent signee from the San Francisco 49ers, Walker put up career-best numbers in his first year in Tennessee.
With 60 receptions for 571 yards, he became the only Titans/Oilers tight end other than Frank Wycheck to reach 60 receptions in a single season, and his six touchdown receptions were the most by a franchise tight end since Wycheck’s six in 1996.
Wide receiver Nate Washington, who leads the Titans in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns since his arrival in 2009, ranked second on the club with 919 yards on 58 receptions. He ranks ninth in team history and third among all active undrafted players in receiving yards.
After consecutive road losses to the Colts and Denver Broncos, the Titans played the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15 at LP Field. Although they rallied to come back from a 17-point deficit with four minutes remaining, their near historic comeback attempt ended in overtime with their ninth loss of the year.
In the final two games of the year, Tennessee found success on the ground, rushing for 333 total yards to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Texans.
Johnson continued to add to his lengthy list career accomplishments.
The organization’s third all-time leading rusher became the sixth player in NFL history to record at least 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first six seasons, joining the select company of Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDainian Tomlinson, Eric Dickerson and Corey Dillon. Since Johnson’s arrival in the NFL in 2008, only Adrian Peterson (8,774) has more rushing yards than Johnson’s 7,965. Johnson recorded 9,968 total scrimmage yards from 2008 through 2013, the 10th-best figure in league history through a player’s first six seasons.
Johnson and Greene ran behind an offensive line that turned over all three interior players from 2012 to 2013. Chance Warmack played every snap as a rookie, and another rookie, fourth-rounder Brian Schwenke, emerged to start nine times at center. At left guard, Andy Levitre, who was a prized free agent from the Buffalo Bills, started every game in his first season with the club.
The longest tenured offensive players on the Titans roster, left tackle Michael Roos and right tackle David Stewart, returned for their ninth seasons, although Stewart missed four games due to multiple injuries.