For about two-and-a-half quarters, it looked promising.
But then, the Titans returned to their struggling ways of the past couple of seasons, turning the ball over on three second-half possessions in a 25-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Those turnovers helped doom the Titans to their 28th loss in their past 33 games and came after posting a 10-0 lead in the first half.
Defensively, the Titans did what they wanted to, bottling up Adrian Peterson and holding the Vikings offense out of the end zone for the entire game.
“I would have put all my money that the Titans would have won,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said, when told of those two accomplishments. “But that’s not the case. It’s the NFL, and crazy stuff happens. It’s something we can learn from.”
Minnesota, starting backup Shaun Hill at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater out for the season, got two gift touchdowns from the Titans that led directly to the victory.
The first came when a Marcus Mariota pass that Eric Kendricks picked off and returned it 77 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The ball was intended for Harry Douglas, but Kendricks got in front and had a clear path the other way to the end zone.
“That’s just a case of me trying to do too much. They had the right play called on defense. I probably should have thrown the ball away and moved on to the next play,” Mariota said. “It’s something I can learn from.”
The point after was no good, and the score remained 12-10.
After a Walsh field goal pushed it to 15-10, a fumbled exchange in the fourth quarter on a handoff from Mariota to DeMarco Murray was picked up by Danielle Hunter and returned 24 yards for another score that made the score 22-10.
“I grabbed it. I probably could have done better on that and I definitely take the blame for that,” Murray said.
Mariota, likewise, took responsibility for the miscue, saying.
The Titans had another fumble from Murray that the defense managed to get a stop on. Murray, like Mariota on the interception, said he was guilty of trying to do too much.
“I was trying to do a little too much, just trying to make a play. We had plenty of time left. I’ve just got to be smarter and take care of the football,” said Murray, who had 42 yards on 13 carries and also one touchdown in the first half.
Tennessee’s defense held Peterson to 31 yards on 19 carries. Also, Tennessee forced the Vikings to settle for field goals most of the day, as Blair Walsh was shaky at times, missing two kicks and an extra point, but hitting on four other field goal tries.
But it was the turnovers in the second half that did in the Titans on Sunday. Not only did the Titans turn it over, an offense that put up 11 first downs in the first half, was held to just four first downs in the second half prior to a consolation drive late in the game where Mariota found Murray for a 4-yard TD that accounted for the final margin.
Despite the loss and second-half struggles, the Titans vow they won’t allow the losing of the past few years to permeate this team that way.
“Last year, I wasn’t part of this team, but I know for damn sure that’s not going to happen this year. We just let one slip away. They’re a good football team, and we’ve got to do better, myself included,” Murray said.