NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A game that had many plays that rivaled the Music City Miracle may have been decided by what could be called the Music City Miscommunication.
Detroit forced overtime by scoring two touchdowns in the last 18 seconds of regulation, including a 46-yard Hail Mary at the end of regulation. But Tennessee recovered Sunday to win the season's craziest game, 44-41, with the difference being a 26-yard field goal by Rob Bironas with 10:36 left in overtime.
However, because of new overtime rules, the game did not end with that field goal. A team must score a touchdown to get a victory on the first possession in overtime. Otherwise, the opponent gets a chance to score.
So needing a field goal to tie and extend overtime or a touchdown to win, the Lions took the ensuing possession and drove to the Tennessee 7-yard line and were faced with a fourth-and-1. The Lions lined up under backup quarterback Shaun Hill, who came in after Matthew Stafford aggravated a leg injury. Hill took the snap and was stuffed by defensive tackle Jurrell Casey for a loss of 1. Game over.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said the last play was a mistake, or to be precise, a miscommunication.
"It was a miscommunication," Schwartz said. "We were supposed to try to draw them offsides, and if it didn't work, call timeout and kick the field goal. We obviously didn't communicate that well enough with the 11 guys on the field. That's on me."
It was the last in a series of errors for the Lions, who were flagged 10 times for 91 yards, including two on the Titans' overtime possession that led to first downs.
The Titans appeared to have clinched the game with 1:16 left in regulation when cornerback Alterraun Verner ripped the ball from Brandon Pettigrew's hands and raced 72 yards for a touchdown to give them a 41-27 lead.
But Hill, who came in after Matthew Stafford aggravated a leg injury that bothered him most of the day, led an 80-yard drive that culminated with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson with 18 seconds to play.
Two plays after the Lions' Amari Spievey recovered an onside kick at the Tennessee 46, Hill lofted a pass to the end zone. Akeem Ayers tried to knock the ball down but deflected it to Titus Young, who fell into the end zone as the remnants of a sellout crowd at LP Field stood in stunned silence.
Tennessee wiped out a 27-20 deficit with three touchdowns in less than 5 1/2 minutes, started by its second special-teams score of the day. Darius Reynaud reaped the benefits of a huge block by Taylor Thompson, who obliterated Jonte' Green and cruised 105 untouched yards down the right sideline to even the score at the 6:41 mark.
Tennessee then forced a punt and took over with 3:30 left. After a penalty wiped out a first-down run by Jake Locker, he and Nate Washington connected for a tiebreaking 71-yard touchdown at the 3:11 mark, with Washington plucking the ball from behind cornerback Jacob Lacey and waltzing to the end zone.
"Nate made a great play for me," said Locker, who was 29 of 42 for 378 yards in posting his first win as an NFL starter. "I think we saw what this offense can do when it's clicking on all cylinders."
The Titans took a 10-6 lead with 33 seconds left in the first quarter with a beautifully executed trick play on a punt return. Reynaud fielded Ben Graham's 38-yard punt at the 37, ran to the 40 and threw the ball across the field from left to right. Tommie Campbell caught it and zoomed 65 yards to the end zone.
Tennessee (1-2) established a 20-9 halftime lead, but the Lions appeared to take control in the second half, pounding away at a defense that was visibly gassed by the fourth quarter. But despite yielding 583 total yards and 36 first downs, the Titans made the final play in a game full of wild momentum shifts.
"They were on the field for a long time, but give them credit for coming through at the end," Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said of the defense.
Notes: Detroit LT Jeff Backus extended his streak of consecutive starts to 179, the longest among current NFL offensive players. Tennessee LT Michael Roos made his 115th straight start, ranking him fourth in that category … Lions TE Tony Scheffler was among the inactives for this game as was Titans MLB Colin McCarthy … Tennessee backup QB Matt Hasselbeck was one of 12 current or former players who signed a letter written by the NFL Players Association on Thursday asking commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners to settle their lockout of the referees. The letter was released Sunday morning.