NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The Tennessee Titans now know how the New York Giants felt last season.

Tennessee stunned the NFL by rallying from 21-0 inside the final 10 minutes to beat the Giants, an improbable victory that nearly pushed them into a playoff berth. On Sunday, the Titans led 17-3 midway through the fourth quarter before collapsing and losing 23-17 to San Diego in overtime.

The team featuring Vince Young and the NFL’s fourth-best rushing offense was unable to run out the clock.

Now the Titans are on the outside looking in and needing help for a playoff berth that seemed inevitable after a 6-2 start.

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who tied his career high with three sacks Sunday, said this will be a tough loss to forget.

“This was an emotional game, and we fought hard until the end. It’s just tough to not come out with the win, but at the same time in the past when this has happened to this team it seemed like we became closer as a team, draw a little bit tighter,” he said.

“We learned from our mistakes and are able to move on. That’s the nature of this league is being able to put a tough loss behind you and move on quickly.”

That might be easier said than done. The Titans (7-6) have lost four of their past five games. With three games left, they trail Jacksonville (9-4) and Cleveland (8-5) and are tied with Buffalo (7-6) in the chase for the AFC’s two wild-card berths.

First, they must rebound from a disheartening loss that left the few players who lingered in the locker room hanging their heads.

Coach Jeff Fisher did his best to start the healing Monday. He said players usually bounce back by Wednesday and insisted the Titans are fine coming off a game in which he was pleased with the effort and intensity, if not the loss.

“We’ve got to win them all. There’s no doubt about that. It’s pretty simple. That starts with this week. If we play like we played (Sunday), we have a chance to win the remaining three games,” he said.

With defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth back for his second straight game, the Titans played smothering defense with three interceptions and five sacks. They kept LaDainian Tomlinson in check until the final 2:24 of regulation and overtime.

Travis LaBoy pressured Philip Rivers into a bad throw to Chris Chambers, a play ruled a catch with no good replay angle to overturn it on fourth-and-5. Fisher counted 10 seconds after the ball was set for play and the game clock starting, crucial with San Diego tying the game with 9 seconds remaining.

“When it came down to crunch time, we didn’t step up,” Vanden Bosch said.

The defense couldn’t save the offense this time, even though it held San Diego to only a field goal after Young’s second interception.

The Titans had their chance to seal the win with an offense averaging 133.8 yards rushing per game. They got the ball back with 7:29 left and ran LenDale White seven straight times, then Chris Brown once. On third-and-4, Young’s pass to tight end Bo Scaife was broken up.

“We’re trying to put it away,” Fisher said in defending the call.

The Titans punted and had the ball for only three more plays in overtime before punting away again.

Young denied the loss will haunt the Titans.

“We just have to put that game in the past. We got three more left. We have to fight hard and get ready to play the next play. We can’t live off that game right there. It happened, and now it’s in the past. Let’s move on,” Young said.

The schedule could help.

The Titans go to Kansas City, where this franchise has not won since 1990. But the Chiefs are 4-9 and already eliminated from the postseason.

The Titans then host the New York Jets (3-10) before wrapping up the season at Indianapolis, a team that could have a bye wrapped up and coach Tony Dungy preferring to protect his stars rather than play them.

Vanden Bosch said the Titans, who finished the 2006 season winning six of their final seven, including that game against the Giants, must start moving back in the right direction. He believes there’s still hope for a team that will be ready for Kansas City.

“The way the AFC’s set up right now we can’t afford to lose any more games if we want a shot, and that’s all we can ask for,” he said.

AP-ES-12-10-07 1810EST


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