Recap - Titans 15, Jaguars 10
So today is a day of ‘finals’ – my final stadium visit of the year, the final game of the NFL regular season and the final day of 2017. And what a wonderful way to cap things off – New Year’s Eve in the Music City – Nashville, Tennessee. Joining me on this visit is my sweetheart Cathy who is attending her first NFL game and is a little spotty on the rules, but that’s fine. We arrived in Nashville Saturday afternoon and hit up about a half dozen of the many honky tonk bars on Broadway including The Tin Roof, Nudie's Honky Tonk and eventually ended up at Legends Corner until it was closing time and they kicked us all out.
Every single bar on Broadway was jam packed with folks getting a head start on the New Years celebration enjoying some great live music.
For whatever reason, they changed the scheduled start time of the game from 1 to 4pm, which was fine since it allowed more time to sleep off the booze and do a little sightseeing, but was also bad since the daytime temperature was about 18 degrees but the early evening temperatures plunged into single digits.
Nissan stadium is situated on the banks of the Cumberland River on the side where there isn’t as much fun and excitement. Getting there from downtown Nashville is about a 10-15 minute walk over a pedestrian bridge from where there are some great city views at the top. By the time we got through the gates, we were already freezing. Nissan stadium was built in 1999 and has been the only home of the Titans ever since the franchise relocated from Houston where they played as the Oilers. The stadium is showing quite a bit of age and doesn’t have anywhere near the number of nice features or amenities as most other stadiums I’ve been to so far. What’s worse is that there were no places at all to offer refuge from the cold. Even the team shop was open to the concourse and not heated. The $40 thin Titans blanket we bought there didn’t do a hell of a lot of good. Arriving at the stadium almost an hour ahead of kickoff didn’t help matters either. While the open air, riverfront setting is probably wonderful for a game in September or October – it absolutely sucked on Sunday. Prior to kickoff, we downed a couple of ‘adult hot chocolates’ which took away a little bit of the bite.
There were some really nice displays, murals, etc. and a section called the 'Nissan Hall of Greats' which had some nice interactive video displays paying homage to great Titan and Oiler players and moments of the past including Warren Moon, Eddie George and Earl Campbell , also of the team coming one yard short of a Super Bowl victory in January 2000 and of course, the famous Music City Miracle playoff win against the Bills in that same season. The seating area was roomy and had great sightlines to the field. We were sitting low down around the 30-yard line. Two giant jumbotrons made it easy to follow in game action and replays.
Since Nashville is such a hot tourist destination, it’s not uncommon for visiting team fans to come out to games and often outnumber the Titan fans, but not today. This game had significant implications for the Titans – a win would earn them a wildcard spot and a trip to the playoffs for the first time in eight years – a loss would end their season. Their opponents were their AFC South rivals Jacksonville who had already punched their ticket to the playoffs and didn’t have anything to play for – but weren’t about to roll over either
Titans QB Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown and used his legs to help the Titans win 15-10 to end their playoff drought and clinch an AFC wild-card berth.
Since the Jaguars clinched their first AFC South title a week ago and had nothing on the line, I'm not sure how motivated they were to win this game. Mariota ran a season-high 10 times for 60 yards, the biggest run being a 13-yard scramble on third-and-5 at the 2:00 mark. He also threw for 134 yards.
The Titans sacked Jax QB Blake Bortles twice and forced four turnovers, two of them interceptions by Kevin Byard. The Titans snapped a three-game skid in a game they needed to win and also posted their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2007-08.
Although it was a close and meaningful game and there was plenty of fan enthusiasm – more and more body parts became numb as the game worse on and we decided to throw in the towel in the 3rd quarter. Another factor in the decision to bail early was that it was New Years Eve and we had a long night planned as we were going to a party at the Hard Rock complete with rooftop viewing of fireworks over the Cumberland at midnight. We watched the rest of the game while thawing out in the hotel.
The New Years Eve party was a lot of fun – the crowd was great and the band , No Fun Intended, did a lot of great covers and mashups.
Today – after sleeping in late and having brunch in the hotel – we went on a tour of the city. There are so many interesting things to see and do in Nashville, even on a freezing cold holiday - The Ryman Auditorium, The Country Music Hall of Fame, Great neighborhoods like The Gulch, Music Row with the legendary RCA Studio B and the "Musica Statue", The Parthenon, Vanderbilt University, The Goo Goo Cluster shop and the Johnny Cash museum. We could have done so much more given more time and about another 40 degrees of warmth. Nashville is such a fun and vibrant city which I’d imagine is a hell of a lot more so when the temperatures are not quite as arctic.
It pays to show up to Nashville hungry. The food is excellent and the portions are generous. You won't find a lot of tiny portioned haute cusine here - it's more down home , rib sticking 'meat and three' offerings. A must try is their famous hot chicken - ranging from a mild burn to 'please take me to the ER'. The most well know establishment for this is Hattie B’s, but it was closed for New Years Day. We ended up going to the Acme Feed and Seed for a 'Rule the Roost' hot chicken sandwich and some great local brew.
So, this closes my 2017 chapter on stadium trips. I have plenty more planed in 2018. Now comes the countdown to Spring and baseball season.
Fans - B - Enthusiastic and energized despite the bitter cold due to the 'win and in' scenario
Features - C - No real special features and, worse yet, no real places to get warm. The Nissan 'Hall of Great' was a nice display
Location -B+ - A 10 minute walk across the river from downtown Nashville
Food - D - Nothing remarkable - especially considering all the great local Nashville food offerings
Game - B+ - Exciting scenario - home team wins on the final game of the season to end an eight season playoff drought
Overall Experience - C - An A+ for the excitement of Nashville - but the unremarkable stadium and the frigid temperature made it tough to really enjoy the game.