For three quarters, the check engine light was on for the Tennessee Titans offense Sunday in Detroit.
Fortunately for them, their sluggish offense found an extra gear in the fourth quarter in the Motor City, as Marcus Mariota rallied the Titans to a come-from-behind 16-15 victory over the Detroit Lions with a pair of TD passes, including the game-winner on Tennessee’s final possession.
Mariota completed a 9-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-5 to Andre Johnson, who caught the ball between two defenders to give Tennessee its first lead of the game with 1:13 to play. Mariota was 9 of 9 on the final drive in marching the Titans 83 yards for the winning score.
The drive capped an up-and-day for the Titans, who overcame a 15-3 Lions’ lead with two fourth quarter touchdown passes by Mariota, who was 25 of 33 for 238 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
“One thing we learned today is that we can finish games. We can come back and we can do it on the road,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “There were a lot of really good lessons learned from that game.”
The game was extremely sloppy with penalties on both sides. The Titans had 12 penalties for 83 yards in the game, while the Lions were flagged 17 times for 138 yards, including losing three touchdown plays because of penalties.
Tennessee struggled at the start with poor field position, which led to the first score of the game. The Lions tackled DeMarco Murray in his own end zone for a safety and a 2-0 lead.
The Lions added to the lead, scoring what would be their only touchdown of the game, a 24-yard TD from Matthew Stafford to Anquan Boldin for a 9-0 lead.
Ryan Succop, who missed a 51-yard field goal on the Titans opening series, connected from 46 yards out to put the Titans on the board at 9-3. But Detroit’s Matt Prater added a field goal before the half to make it 12-3 before adding another kick in the third quarter to push the lead to 15-3.
The Titans began a drive late in the third quarter, that extended into the fourth period, with Delanie Walker scoring on a 30-yard pass from Mariota on the first play of the final quarter.
The Titans took possession with 7:04 left in the game from their own 17.
Mariota then mixed in a few runs with his precision passing, completing the decisive march with Johnson’s spectacular catch.
“Andre made the catch and the throw was right where it needed to be,” Mularkey said.
The Titans went for two, but Mariota was sacked on the play.
Detroit got the football back and moved near midfield, but cornerback Perrish Cox, one of several members of the Titans secondary who struggled during the game, picked off Stafford in the final minute to seal the Titans first win of the season and only their sixth in their past 34 games.
Afterward, Mularkey was pleased with his team’s ability to hang in on the road.
“I was really proud of the grit this team showed,” Mularkey said.