Bucs DT Albert Haynesworth had been looking forward to his return to Nashville, where he spent the first seven seasons of his NFL career. In fact, he still has pretty important ties to the area. • "(Saturday) I got to see my kids, and they're getting huge," he said. "I really miss them." • But Haynesworth made it clear he was in town on business. • "Coming here to play in front of the Titans fans was great, but it would have been even better for me if we would have gotten a win here," he said. • Haynesworth finished with four tackles, including two for losses. He consistently helped collapse the pocket around QB Matt Hasselbeck and made penetration into the backfield on running plays. On one, when he decked RB Javon Ringer for a loss, Haynesworth got up from the pile and pumped his fists. That drew some mild boos from the Titans fans, who surely recall his decision to leave the team as a free agent in 2009. • Still, Haynesworth's recollections remain fond. • "I appreciate the memories," he said.
Clearwater Central Catholic grad and Titans rookie Colin McCarthy faced the team he grew up watching in the bay area. • And in this interesting situation, McCarthy made it known he is the Titans' middle linebacker of the future. Having started in place of injured former Bucs MLB Barrett Ruud (groin), McCarthy led the Titans with 10 tackles (seven solo), a pass defensed and an interception of Bucs QB Josh Freeman. • Dropping into coverage in his Cover 2 zone — the deep middle of the field — McCarthy read Freeman's eyes and jumped in front of a pass intended for TE Kellen Winslow, robbing the Bucs of a key fourth-quarter possession. • "What went through my mind was, 'Just catch it! Just catch it!' " McCarthy said afterward. • McCarthy said Tennessee defensive coordinator Jerry Gray had been prepping him all last week to cover throws to Winslow down the middle. • "We'd seen it on film," McCarthy said. "So, the biggest thing is if they throw it to you, don't drop it." • Freeman said there was a miscommunication between he and Winslow, though Freeman wasn't specific. Whether Winslow ran a different route than Freeman expected wasn't clear, but Freeman's decision to throw the ball with McCarthy lurking wasn't smart in either case. • "It's just something that, at that point in the game, can't happen," Freeman said. "Looking back, we had our timeouts, we had plenty of time."
Old friend outdoes Morris
. When Bucs coach Raheem Morris played at Irvington (N.J.) High School, he played for coach Chet Parlavecchio, left, probably never dreaming that they would one day face each other on opposite sidelines of an NFL field. But it happened, and it was an important subplot Sunday. As it turns out, it was Parlavecchio, a special teams assistant with the Titans, who cooked up a beautifully timed reverse on a first-quarter kickoff return that resulted in a touchdown.
"I got outdone by my high school head coach," bemoaned Morris afterward. "Unbelievable, isn't it?"
On the play, Bucs kickoff specialist Mike Koenen and his cover men were attempting a right-side kickoff, putting the ball near the Bucs sideline. That's where KR Marc Mariani fielded it at the goal line and worked his way up the field. The Bucs had a wave of cover men converging to pin him against the sideline when he did the unexpected. At the Tennessee 16, Mariani stealthily handed the ball to DB Tommie Campbell, who was heading in the opposite direction. By the time the Bucs found the ball, they were in a footrace that they would lose, resulting in an 84-yard touchdown return for Campbell.
"It was a great call because nobody saw it," Bucs LB Adam Hayward said. "We were all running to where the ball was. We had no idea." The play was called 37 Special.
"Once I got past the safety, I knew I had it," Campbell said.
"They've done a lot of tricks, but nothing like that," said Hayward, Tampa Bay's special teams captain. "We were expecting something else. It was perfect timing. It was a good call because we had people coming across the field (in the opposite direction) and they just walled us off." And, for that, Morris can thank his old friend, Coach Parlavecchio.
. The Bucs offense seemed to have major issues finding the end zone, so Tampa Bay needed its defense to help show the way.
That's where CB Aqib Talib came up big, intercepting Tennessee QB Matt Hasselbeck in the third quarter and returning the ball 27 yards for a momentum-shifting touchdown. It was Talib's second interception of the season, and both times he has returned them for touchdowns.
The play gave the Bucs a 17-10 lead, but it didn't hold up.
"We got turnovers, but we didn't get enough to win," Talib said.
Talib dived underneath intended receiver Nate Washington, then stopped, cut and hightailed it to the end zone.
Talib had another stellar day, adding three tackles, a pass defensed and a forced a fumble by RB Chris Johnson (which SS Sean Jones recovered).
RB LeGarrette Blount had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance Sunday, but it wasn't one that the second-year player is likely to celebrate. • Moments after the game, when coach Raheem Morris was asked about Blount, he succinctly summed up the day of his battering-ram ball carrier, who fumbled twice. • "LeGarrette went out and ran the ball well, but you have to hang on to the football at all costs," Morris said. "When you're carrying that football, you're carrying the whole team on your back." • Blount rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries, a 5.2-yard average. He also caught three passes for 56 yards, including a short reception in which he rumbled 35 yards. • A subdued Blount, who had his third 100-yard game of the season, had few answers afterward. • "We just didn't hold on to the ball tight enough," he said. "We didn't hold on to the ball the way we were taught."
Johnson awakens against Bucs D
. Titans RB Chris Johnson had run for 4,598 yards in his three previous seasons. Yet, this season, he had not flirted with the sort of rare numbers he had since 2008 — until Sunday. The Orlando native had the third-best effort of his career, running for 190 yards on 23 carries, dazzling with his precise, quick cutting and rapid acceleration that left the Bucs exasperated.
The Bucs seemed to have Johnson under wraps in the first half, when they gang-tackled him, dropped him for losses and generally limited his effectiveness, holding him to 46 yards at halftime. Then, everything changed.
"The way he is, he can make up for (negative plays)," said Bucs DT Albert Haynesworth, a former teammate of Johnson's. "He's Chris Johnson. You don't really come in and try to stop him. You just want to contain him. That was kind of the plan."
The Bucs could've limited Johnson by limiting his opportunities, but that would have required getting defensive stops and finishing drives on offense. In the late going, they did neither.
"He got too many yards," coach Raheem Morris said. "He had a couple breakout runs. He's a great running back. Make no mistake about it. When great running backs get that many carries and that many touches, you get a chance to be explosive and (he's) going to be. The only way to stop him is to get him off the football field."
The Bucs entered the game with the NFL's 31st-ranked defense. They didn't help their ranking with Sunday's performance, giving up 352 yards.
. DT Brian Price, who has been hampered by injuries, sprained his ankle in the second quarter and was seen in the locker room on crutches. The severity of the injury is unknown.
. Rookie DE Da'Quan Bowers made his first start, replacing injured Michael Bennett, and had one tackle.
. CB Ronde Barber's forced fumble, which led to a Bucs touchdown, was his first of the season and the 14th of his career.
. DE Adrian Clayborn's third-quarter sack was his fifth of the season, a team high.
. After recording just one TD reception in the first nine games, WR Mike Williams has now scored in back-to-back weeks and has 14 in his career.
Slipping and sliding
. The Nashville area was bracing for a cold front that was expected to drop more than an inch of rain. Mother Nature did not disappoint. The playing surface at LP Field was covered by a tarp before kickoff. But with rain falling consistently, it didn't take long for the conditions to affect the game. There were nine combined turnovers, including six lost fumbles (four by the Bucs). At times, ball carriers lost their footing when trying to plant on the wet turf, which had been resodded just last week. "I think there were some good hits where the ball was going to come out," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "But I think the weather ends up being the main reason for it. … It adds to it. It was definitely the first time we have played in that weather." Said Bucs coach Raheem Morris: "Obviously there was a lot of rain. But it's football. That's what we play this game for. Nobody wants to play in pretty (weather) all the time. It's about the elements. That's why we play, and that's what we signed up for. I actually enjoyed it. I want to play more games like that."