Then they got to the playoffs.
The Titans cost themselves the chance to host their first AFC Championship Game by seemingly trying to squeeze in every mistake possible into a 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday.
"No question," Titans quarterback Kerry Collins said. "The things we did all year to help us win ballgames we didn't do today. Turnovers, penalties, what have you. To say it's disappointing is an understatement. This is a tough one to swallow.
The Titans didn't sack rookie quarterback Joe Flacco even once after coming up with 44 during the season. LenDale White had lost only one fumble all season until he fumbled at the Ravens 15 -- one of three turnovers inside the Baltimore 15. They also had 12 penalties, and the running game evaporated when Pro Bowl rookie Chris Johnson hurt his right ankle and didn't play for most of the game.
"This obviously was a very, very difficult loss, one that was a result, as I should put it, (of) probably our ... self-inflicted mistakes," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
The Titans went 13-3 and led the NFL most of the season in turnover ratio, finishing at plus-13. In this game, they didn't force a single turnover yet lost three on White's fumble, Collins' interception and the most costly -- veteran tight end Alge Crumpler's fumble a yard away from the goal line with 8:57 left in the game.
A chance at going up 14-10? Gone.
Crumpler stood near his locker and quietly answered questions, taking the blame for his fumble after being slammed by Ravens linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard to lose the ball. Crumpler said he knew how important possession was in such a tight game.
"It's a feeling I don't know when I'll ever get rid of," the former Falcons tight end said.
He wasn't alone.
The Titans had All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and end Kyle Vanden Bosch back. A defensive line that came up with 391/2 sacks could not take Flacco down once.
Kicker Rob Bironas, who missed only four field goal tries all season, had the wind at his back when he pushed a 51-yard attempt just wide left after a replay challenge by Baltimore coach John Harbaugh erased a 5-yard reception by Bo Scaife for not getting his right foot down.
Losing Johnson hurt the most.
The rookie had 100 total yards with 11 carries for 72 yards and one reception for 28 and scored Tennessee's lone touchdown, an 8-yard scamper around the right side for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. He had a 4-yard carry midway through the second quarter, went to the sideline and had his right ankle retaped and tested himself. He spent the second half wearing a parka and sipping on a hot drink.
"This one's going to sink in, and it's going to hurt for a while," Collins said.