NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans have little time to fret over a long list of mental errors that cost them a prime opportunity to grab control the AFC's final wild card.
Despite handing the Indianapolis Colts their first win this season, the Titans (7-7) remain mathematically alive for the playoffs. Coach Mike Munchak says that means Saturday's home finale against Jacksonville (4-10) is a playoff game.
And Munchak is sticking with Matt Hasselbeck as his quarterback.
"We're still in the playoff hunt, and he's the quarterback that got us there," Munchak said Monday. "I think that's what you have to go with the guy who has the experience, the guy that's been in playoff situations, the guy that's been in the Super Bowl. After what he's meant to us this year and how well he has played throughout the season for us that I think we have to give him the opportunity to finish the job."
The only way rookie Jake Locker gets his first start this season is if Hasselbeck isn't healthy enough to play. But the 13-year veteran, who has been hampered by a strained left calf muscle, was healthy enough to start Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Colts, and Munchak said Hasselbeck just had some swelling in his leg from playing.
"We're happy with Jake. Believe me," Munchak said. "We think Jake's a very good quarterback where he's going to be playing football for a long time for us, and fans are going to love watching him. ... It all depends on Matt's health."
Locker has come off the bench in three of the last five games, and his play as the eighth pick overall has fans wanting to see him start now. He was 11 of 16 for 108 yards with a 108.3 passer rating in Indy, but Munchak noted Hasselbeck played well at times too, completing 13 of 14 passes before his second interception.
Even though the Titans missed grabbing the sixth and final AFC playoff berth as the second wild card, they aren't out yet. They are behind the New York Jets (8-6) in that sixth spot, with Cincinnati (8-6) a spot ahead. The Jets finish against the Giants and at Miami, while Cincinnati hosts Arizona and Baltimore. Tennessee wraps up the season at Houston.
"We don't have control anymore," rookie defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said after the loss to the Colts. "We'll have to see how some other teams do, and we'll see how it all plays out. We can't go out there and just give up."
The Titans looked inept at times against the previously winless Colts.
Returner Marc Mariani, a Pro Bowler as a rookie, kicked a ball out of bounds at the Titans 1. Jared Cook tripped running into the end zone just before halftime. Linebacker Akeem Ayers couldn't hold onto Donald Brown for a loss before the back slipped away for an 80-yard touchdown, sealing the Colts' first victory.
Five dropped passes. There was a rare delay of game penalty, and more missed assignments led to Chris Johnson being tackled for losses. Johnson was the target on a pass picked off by Jacob Lacey for a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Hasselbeck seemed limited by his strained left calf from a week ago, and he started the second series with a 1-yard loss when he ran right on a botched play. Cook had a career-high nine catches for 103 yards, but the tight end also had the ball stripped after a 27-yard completion to the Colts 38 early in the fourth quarter, one of three Titans turnovers.
"From the first play through the whole game, we had way too many mental mistakes to be going to the playoffs or having a shot at even going to the playoffs," receiver Nate Washington said.
Munchak said Monday he's sure fans are very disappointed and it's hard moving forward after a tough loss. If the Titans want their first playoff berth since 2008 and only their third since the end of the 2003 season, they have no choice but to move forward because Munchak said anything is possible.
"We've got to man up and play our best game to win," Munchak said.
NOTES: The Titans were off Monday with the short week. ... Johnson has a sore ankle after being tackled by his legs at the end of his 35-yard run, and Munchak said he could be questionable against the Jaguars.