Titans can't find Randy Moss in ugly loss

Randy Moss finished with just one catch for 26 yards in his debut with the Titans. AP Photo/Alan Diaz

MIAMI -- The equation was part Randy Moss, part Mike Heimerdinger, part Kerry Collins and Vince Young, part Dolphins defense.

The result from Moss was one catch for 26 yards.

In terms of influence on a game for a team expecting a jolt from a big addition, it was about zero. And the Titans needed significantly more than that in a disheartening 29-17 loss to Miami at Sun Life Stadium.

That’s hardly the sort of production we’ve seen in his four previous debut games, when he averaged 122 yards and 22.2 yards per catch and scored five touchdowns.

Unsurprisingly, Tennessee talked about his impact on coverages and the room he helped create for Chris Johnson.

It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback while watching replays, but there sure seemed to be a half-dozen plays where Moss was open or would have had a good chance to go get a ball when he didn’t have one come his way.

In most of those situations, the quarterback appeared to be looking the other direction. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said he intended to move Moss around and get him the ball. Moss lined up at least 30 times on the left, a little more than half that often on the right and a handful of times in the slot.

Second-year cornerback Vontae Davis, who has played well against Moss in the past, was usually in coverage and said, “I kind of got his tendencies.”

But he also had assistance.

“He had help over the top or underneath -- either really soft under, which opened up the other side, or someone over the top, which opened up the other side,” Heimerdinger said. “I talked with [Moss] on the sidelines and he was pretty good about it. He said, ‘I don’t care. Let the coverage dictate it.’”

Said Jeff Fisher: “Our quarterbacks are throwing where the progression takes them. We had some open receivers and we had three or four balls either deflected or [where] Kerry was hit. If we catch those balls, maybe it’s a different ballgame.”

Given advantages in coverage, the rest of the Titans’ pass-catchers didn’t do much damage.

Bo Scaife had a game-high seven receptions for a 7.3-yard average. Nate Washington and Justin Gage were targeted nine times each like Scaife, but had only three catches apiece. Moss’ 26-yard reception was the long pass of the game for the Titans, who got a 30-yard run from Johnson.

Moss gave himself a poor review.

“I don’t think that I had a very good overall game,” he said.

If players such as Gage and Washington are to be the beneficiaries of the big experiment, they’ll have to do more and the quarterback will have to be more accurate in getting them the ball.

“They were going to leave a guy on him press and leave a guy on him over the top,” said Gage, who worked as the third receiver. “That singled us up on the backside a lot of the time and gave us opportunities.”

But the offense was not sharp and could not take advantage.

Collins, who has an injured middle finger on his throwing hand, was off in the first half with only 51 yards passing and didn’t return from intermission after suffering a calf injury on the second-to-last play of the half.

Young didn’t fare much better with 92 passing yards in the second half. Along with his pretty touchdown throw to Washington, he lost a fumble deep in Titans’ territory and threw an interception.

“I wasn’t pleased with the fumble early and there were a couple things early that weren’t what we wanted,” Heimerdinger said. “But then he got into a rhythm.”

Young engineered an 11-play, 74-yard march in the third quarter that ended with that nice 14-yard score to Washington. On that drive, not even looking at Moss paid off. But the same couldn’t be said for much of the rest of the passing game.

The two quarterbacks combined to complete 18 of 38 passes -- 47 percent. That’s awful.

“Some of the things they were doing on defense … [Moss] wasn’t open,” Young said.

The run game did appear to benefit from Moss’ presence. Chris Johnson had 17 carries for 117 yards and a touchdown, and Young, held out to be sure an ankle injury would heal, ran twice for 14 more.

And as unlikely as the Titans were to convert a fourth-and-20 with 3:28 remaining, it seemed especially ridiculous that it was one of the four or six plays for which Moss was off the field.

“He was tired,” Fisher said. “They all were tired. There was a lot of running today. We tried to make a play in the end zone. He wasn’t not out there for any reason other than he was tired.”

There is not a more feared player than Moss in such a situation, and it sure seemed like a white flag move to have him on the sideline as Young threw an interception to Reshad Jones in the end zone.

“A little more practice, a little more work and we’ll get things together,” Johnson said.

Even if the Titans are able to get Moss the ball, they shouldn’t look to him as the guy who’s going to lift them on his own, strong safety Chris Hope said.

“Moss can’t win the game by himself,” Hope said, “and that’s not what we were depending on.”