By Terry McCormick
The Tennessee Titans are learning how to win, and Sunday’s 24-20 come-from-behind victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, is the latest example of that.
For virtually the entire game, the Titans led, only to cough up the lead with 5:03 to go.
But rather than fold their tent, the Titans responded with a 12-play, 73-yard drive that running back DeMarco Murray capped with a dive into the end zone with a 7-yard TD pass from Marcus Mariota that gave Tennessee its first four-game winning streak in eight years and a 6-3 mark on the season.
“In that situation, you have to fight for every inch, and obviously I knew the situation. We had to get a touchdown in order to win,” said Murray, who also had two rushing touchdowns for the Titans. “Offensively, we didn’t play as well leading up to that point, but that last drive, we call came together.”
Coming together has been a key for the Titans during this stretch of success, which has been new to many in the locker room.
“It came down to the fourth quarter. They made some plays that put our offense back on the field to where we had to go down and we drove all the way down and put points on the board,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “We’re never going to give up, and we’re going to continue to fight. That’s the difference from years before. They didn’t have the fight. Now we have that fight.”
Left tackle Taylor Lewan agreed, as the Titans were determined to not just tie the game with a field goal, but punch it into the end zone for the victory.
“That’s the difference between us now and us two years ago,” Lewan said. “Those little situations we got into – was it finger-pointing or whatever, I don’t know what it was back then – but as an offense now, we saw them score on it, and I don’t think anybody flinched. Our defense has been holding it down for us all year, and it was our turn to pay it back.”
Mariota said the Titans’ resilience at the end after having struggled for much of the second half, was good to see.
“I think it’s part of the job. No matter what the score is, you can’t be gun shy. You’ve got to go out there and try to make a play for your team,” Mariota said. “When you’re able to do that, even though you have moments where you’re stalling, it shows grittiness.”
Except for the game-winning drive, most of the Titans offense came in the first half. Tennessee scored on a creative opening drive to go up 7-0, only to have Cincinnati answer with an Andy Dalton 37-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lafell. Randy Bullock, however, missed the point after, and the Bengals trailed 7-6.
In the second quarter, both teams traded touchdowns, as the Titans got a 1-yard TD from Murray, and the Bengals answered with a 3-yard touchdown from Joe Mixon after a Marcus Mariota interception.
Tennessee then moved in front by four points on the final play of the half on Ryan Succop’s 44-yard field goal.
Mariota had a solid day, but contributed most when it counted at crunch time. Mariota was 25 of 44 for 264 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 51 yards on six carries. On the Titans’ final drive, Mariota was 5 of 9 with the touchdown pass and added a 5-yard scramble as well. On that run, Mariota went down on his left shoulder and there was a thought he might have to come out of the game. But Mariota stayed in and delivered the winning TD throw to Murray, who fought his way into the end zone, delivering the Titans’ fourth straight win.