As the Tennessee Titans were trying to put together a game-winning drive, a rainbow appeared beyond the north end zone to which they were headed.
But as the drive fizzled with three incompletions on four plays, the rainbow disappeared and so did the Titans, falling 27-23 to the Los Angeles Rams Sunday.
For the 8-7 Titans, losers of three in a row, it now comes down to this – win next Sunday vs. Jacksonville and they reach the playoffs.
Anything else probably results in staying home from the postseason for a ninth straight season.
“From what I understand, from all the scenarios, we have to win next week to be in,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said he told his team in the locker room after the loss.
With a win, the Titans would finish 9-7 and would get into the playoffs, most likely as the sixth seed, despite both Buffalo and the Los Angeles Chargers being 8-7 as well. The Titans could still get the fifth seed with a win and a Baltimore Ravens lost next week against the Bengals.
On Sunday, the Titans lamented more blown opportunities that helped to cost them the games against the Rams.
Trailing 6-0, thanks to a missed extra point by kicker Sam Ficken following a Todd Gurley TD, the Titans drove downfield and reached the one-yard line. But Tennessee settled for a Ryan Succop field goal when a run by Derrick Henry was stopped for no gain a pass to Delanie Walker was incomplete and, even following another incompletion, a defensive holding call gave Tennessee new life and a new set of downs.
A penalty, sack, a four-yard pass and an another incompletion meant settling for a 25-yard kick to cut the lead to 6-3.
“Definitely the difference in the game” Mularkey said. “When you’re on the one-yard line, don’t get it in the one time and then you have a false start, when you play a team that scores a lot of points, you’ve got to score a lot of points, and obviously that was the difference in the game.”
It was frustrating and was somewhat indicative of how the Titans’ fortunes have been going the past three weeks.
“When we get down there, we’ve got to be able to get in the end zone. We had a penalty that set us back,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “They stopped us, and then we had some broken plays that basically ended that drive. Those are things we can’t have, especially playing a team like the Rams. You can’t do that. That shot us in the foot.”
Tennessee managed to overcome, catching a break when the Rams missed a field goal to keep the score 6-3.
The Titans defense then took matter into its own hands to take the lead when Jurrell Casey hit Rams QB Jared Goff, forcing a fumble which Wesley Woodyard picked up and ran in four yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Rams hit Gurley with a screen pass and he did the rest, going 80 yards for a touchdown to put LA back in front.
Tennessee tied the game with a late field goal to make it 13-13 at the half.
The Rams went back in front on a TD pass from Goff, who had four on the day, to Sammy Watkins, before the Titans went no-huddle again and tied the game with DeMarco Murray’s 6-yard run.
Tennessee put another drive together and took a brief lead early in the fourth quarter on Succop’s third field goal this one from 27 yards, thanks to another missed red zone opportunity.
Los Angeles then answered when Goff hit Cooper Kupp for an 18-yard touchdown.
The Titans had two more tries, but could not put together a drive to win the game as Mariota’s fourth-down pass under duress fell incomplete.
“I was trying to make a play, hoping somebody would com down with it, but you’ve got to give the Rams credit,” said Mariota, who was 22 of 39 for 275 yards with one interception.
Now, the Titans have to find a way to end the losing streak or face not being in the postseason once again.
“Unfortunately we’ve kind of put ourselves in this situation, but we’re in it, and we’ve got to put one together, put a full, complete game together as a team,” Mariota said.