In the dim light of the Titans' locker room, one day this summer, wide receiver Kenny Britt pulled up his left shirt sleeve to reveal a two-inch scar across his softball-sized deltoid. He studied the faint black line for a moment, then gently rubbed it as if polishing a badge of honor. Which, to him, it is.
Seven months earlier, with the sun setting on LP Field and on the Titans' 2009 season, Britt sneaked across the back of the end zone and made a leaping 10-yard grab with no time on the clock that gave Tennessee a 20--17 victory over the Cardinals. When Britt landed, safety Matt Ware jolted him with a sharp, thumping blow that pierced his skin.
Britt didn't realize he was bleeding that day until he pulled off his shoulder pads in the locker room. His endorphins were raging, and with good reason. The catch of Vince Young's dart capped an 18-play, 99-yard drive that gave the Titans their fifth win in a row and kept alive their hopes of becoming the first team to reach the playoffs after an 0--6 start. (Tennessee would finish 8--8 and miss the postseason.) Since 2000 it was just the 10th time that a team had scored a TD to win a game with no time left and the only time a team had gone the length of the field to do so.
More improbable than the 18-play march was the manner in which it played out. The Titans converted three fourth downs—the first on a play that offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger (who in 2008 returned to the post he'd held in the early 2000s) absolutely loathed and thought had no chance to succeed, and the last on a call that was drawn up on the sideline during a timeout. Tennessee got two catches from a receiver, Lavelle Hawkins, who'd entered the game with zero for the year; two from a rookie tight end, Jared Cook, who'd had only seven in the first 10 games; and three from a rookie wideout, Britt, who had coughed up the ball, and seemingly the game, one series earlier after a 51-yard gain. The quarterback who directed the drive, the erratic Young, had regained his starting job only four games earlier after having lost it the previous season. Most remarkable of all, in those 18 plays, the league's most dangerous open-field player, All-Pro running back Chris Johnson, did not touch the ball.
During a break in off-season workouts, Heimerdinger and his players reviewed the Nov. 29 game film and recounted, play-by-play, how they pulled off the most remarkable drive of the '09 season.