What the Tennessee Titans accomplished on Sunday at home in their 31-17 victory over Houston brought huge relief. The Titans (6-8) kept their lean playoff hopes alive. If they win at Kansas City on Sunday and at Indianapolis next week, if the Colts lose at Oakland on Sunday and if Jacksonville loses its final two games (home against Washington, at Houston), the Titans are AFC South champions. They are in the playoffs.
Chances slim and none? No, Heimerdinger, the Titans' offensive coordinator, knows better. Hope is hope. It is to be fanned, featured, kept alive.
A cancer battle reinforces that.
"I plan to finish the season," Heimerdinger, whose illness was revealed the last week of November, said in a telephone interview from his Titans office on Monday afternoon. "I had three days of chemotherapy when first diagnosed and then one day the following week. I have a second round of treatment beginning on Dec. 27th. I'll have three days that week. I'll finish and do what we need to do. After the second round, we'll see what happens with my blood count.
Titans Coordinator Mike Heimerdinger Awarded Game Ball
"I will travel with the team to Kansas City for our game there this Sunday. I plan to be in Indianapolis."
A day at a time. A play at a time.
A long-shot divisional championship and playoff spot, to boot, would give this deserving coach a splendid reward.
He has coached in the NFL for 16 seasons.
On Sunday, after the Titans eliminated the Texans (5-9) from the playoffs, after Heimerdinger's offense scored on its first three possessions en route to Tennessee's victory, Fisher awarded Heimerdinger a game ball. The lone Titans game ball awarded.
Imagine coaching that many NFL seasons and never experiencing that. Imagine what it means during a fight for life.
"I've never gotten a game ball before," Heimerdinger said. "It was nice. Shoot, I didn't expect it. It was nice that Jeff thought enough of me to do that. I appreciate it. It probably should have gone to our assistants. The whole staff did a great job in helping us get ready. But what a nice surprise.
"I took it home. It's on my mantle. But I've got to bring it back and get it painted up. Since I never had one before, I wasn't sure what to do with it."
Kerry Collins passed for 237 yards, Kenny Britt gained 128 receiving yards, Chris Johnson rushed for 130 yards and the Titans burst to a 24-3 halftime lead against Houston. Collins connected on a 59-yard pass to Britt, one of several big pass plays that Heimerdinger designed. The Titans' explosion, however, did not include receiver Randy Moss, who did not catch a ball.
"We did what we thought we could do,'' Heimerdinger said. "They (Houston) have had trouble in the secondary and we thought we could get some big plays going and get some momentum going there. We did and that opened up the running game with C.J. (Johnson). Kerry executed well and the offensive line handled their stunts and blitzes.
"You know, I probably should do a better job of trying to get Randy the ball. But we've had some guys playing really good. Randy has done a good job of stepping in with what we've asked him to do. It's Kenny's spot, though. And Kenny has been stepping up."
All of the Titans affectionately call Heimerdinger "Dinger."
His offensive wit and teaching has long been respected throughout the league.
The way he has devised fresh game plans for new challenges has only increased respect for him.
A day at a time. A play at a time.