On Sunday, the Tennessee Titans fell into a pit much deeper and darker than that on their way to being routed 52-25 by the unbeaten Raiders at Network Associates Coliseum.
The Titans, thanks to a pair of Raider punt returns for touchdowns and an interception that became a one-play TD drive for Oakland, fell into a 21-0 hole from which they never recovered. The Raider onslaught was the most points allowed by the franchise since a 61-7 drubbing by Cincinnati in 1989.
But of deeper consequence than that is the 1-3 hole the Titans now find themselves in for the fourth time in six seasons.
"I feel like someone you see in those movies where everything goes wrong for a person. I feel like that's where we are right now," linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "But this team is too talented to let this happen and for things to go wrong all year. We've got to turn it around, and we've got to do it quick, fast and in a hurry."
Quick, fast and in a hurry was the fashion in which Sunday's game got away from the Titans.
After losing an interception by rookie Phillip Buchanon on an overturned replay call on the first play from scrimmage, veteran Rod Woodson, who had three of the Raiders' four picks in the game, did the honors two plays later, taking a tipped Steve McNair pass to the Titan 17. It took Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon exactly one play to find Charlie Garner, who scored for an early 7-0 lead.
It was to get much worse for the Titans, especially on special teams. After a six-play Tennessee drive fizzled, Buchanon fielded a Craig Hentrich punt and, thanks partially to what looked like a hold on cover man Frank Chamberlin, raced 83 yards for the Raiders' second score.
Oakland pulled out some trickery for its next punt return, and the result was Buchanon fielding the ball at the Raider 21, then handing to Terry Kirby on a reverse. Kirby went 79 yards for a third and backbreaking touchdown. Again, it appeared as if some blocks were questionable, but no calls were made and the Raiders led 21-0.
v "I felt it was obviously a block in the back, but on special teams, you find out that sometimes things are penalties and sometimes they aren't. You've just got to keep going. It made me mad, especially that they [didn't] call it and it was the block that springs him for a touchdown," said linebacker Rocky Boiman, one of the apparent victims the second time around.
The Raiders, behind the passing of Rich Gannon, kept rolling out to a 31-7 halftime lead and never really allowed the Titans back into the game.
The lead grew to 38-7 on Tennessee's first series of the second half when Frank Wycheck was unable to corral a McNair pass in the flat and tipped it to Woodson, who went 82 yards for a Raider touchdown and became the NFL's all-time leader in interception return yards in the process.
From there, the Titans, utilizing a no-huddle empty backfield set for much of the second half, tried to claw back into it, getting as close as 38-25. The Titans got a 3-yard TD run from John Simon and a 6-yard TD catch by Drew Bennett in the third quarter (both with failed two-point tries on the conversions) and added a 49-yard TD catch by Justin McCareins with 11:39 in the game to pull within 13.
"When we got it back to 13, I thought we had a chance, but then we gave up another score," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
Actually, it was two more fourth-quarter scores as the Raiders offense continued to attack a worn-down and struggling Tennessee defense that yielded 464 total yards, 374 through the air.
For the Titans, who host the Washington Redskins Sunday at Nashville Coliseum, it is back to the drawing board again.
"We've got two home games in a row before the break, and if we get these two wins we're 3-3, we get a break and come back and start over, look at it as a new slate, a .500 record and start over," Bulluck said. "And everyone is dedicated to doing that. I'm no loser, and I don't feel like anyone I'm playing with is a loser, so therefore if everyone has that winning mentality, it's just a matter of getting it together."
The Titans may have lost two more key performers for an extended period of time in Sunday's game. Cornerback Samari Rolle injured his hamstring chasing Jerry Rice on a 75-yard reception that set up a Raider field goal.
Wide receiver Derrick Mason jammed his left shoulder on the infield dirt of the baseball diamond, and Fisher said it was likely a separation that may force him to miss several weeks.