NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Everyone watching thought Donnie Nickey had downed a Craig Hentrich punt almost perfectly, pinning the Washington Redskins at their own 5 in the first quarter. Then the officials moved the ball up to the 20.
Turns out everyone needs exhibition games, even the officials.
They ruled Nickey had touched the ball illegally, going out of bounds before coming back in and downing the punt.
But the four-year veteran is the Titans' personal protector, the guy who runs straight down the field. Eric King, the gunner lined up on the outside, did go out but didn't touch the ball.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said a new official handling his first NFL game reported No. 23 had gone out of bounds in the 14-6 loss to Washington Saturday night.
``He got the numbers incorrect, and (referee) Tony (Corrente) said, `There's nothing we can do.''' I'm always OK with `Coach, we might've missed that one,''' Fisher said Sunday.
The Titans also thought they might have recovered a fumble after Nickey hit Antwaan Randle-El after a catch. The ball popped out and was recovered by the Titans only to be ruled incomplete. Fisher tossed out his red challenge flag.
``On the catch-fumble, the bang-bang play is usually going to be ruled incomplete,'' Fisher said.
``I kind of felt there was some sort of action by the receiver that relates to the game. I thought he had possession, started to turn, Donnie knocked the ball loose. Had I gone through with the challenge, the only thing that could have happened is they would have ruled it complete and given them the ball right there.''
DEFENSIVE PRESSURE: The Titans came up with almost as many sacks in the first exhibition (five) as they did for the entire 2006 preseason (seven). Coach Jeff Fisher said he was pleased with the defensive front.
``We got pressure, and we had different kinds of sacks, slot blitz sacks. We had one-on-one sacks. We had game sacks. It was good, good to see them working together. We tackled well, which is encouraging,'' Fisher said.
Improving pressure on the quarterback and getting more sacks is a priority for the Titans after ranking last in the NFL on total defense last year and finishing with only 26 sacks.
Safety Chris Hope said more works remains to be done.
``It's definitely too early to say we're going to be a mean, nasty, stingy defense, but it's a building block,'' he said. ``It kind of gives you that much more motivation and push that much harder because you know what type of defense you could possibly be.''
The defense kept Washington's first-team offense from even reaching the red zone despite substituting in second-team linebackers and defensive backs midway through the second quarter.
FINNEGAN'S RETURNS: One of the biggest questions facing the Titans this season was who would replace Adam ``Pacman'' Jones returning punts. One preseason game isn't an answer, but Cortland Finnegan doesn't look too bad as a replacement.
Finnegan returned three punts in the loss to Washington for 46 yards total and averaged 15.3 yards per return, including a 37-yarder on his first chance of the game.
Coach Jeff Fisher, himself a punt returner when he played for Chicago in the early 1980s, said he looked back at Finnegan's returns. Finnegan had five returns for 63 yards with a long of 41 last year in the preseason.
By Fisher's math, that's an average of 17.5 yards per return.
``Keep in mind it's preseason, but still he has potential to be a very good returner for us,'' Fisher said.
INJURY UPDATE: The Titans survived the first exhibition without any injury more than a mild ankle sprain. It helped that they sat a handful of players nursing problems, and coach Jeff Fisher said all but cornerback Andre Woolfolk (hamstring) and receiver David Givens (still on the physically unable to perform list) should be available against New England on Friday night.
That would include cornerback Reynaldo Hill (groin), offensive tackle Mike Otto (knee), starting right guard Benji Olson (back), receiver Jonathan Orr (leg) and defensive end Travis LaBoy (hamstring).
Tight end Ben Troupe wasn't scratched against the Redskins but he did not play. He missed practice Thursday with what was called soreness.

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