Just like they drew it up.
Well, not really. Not even close actually, but the Tennessee Titans, who led for all of 36 seconds, will take the 26-22 come-from-behind win over the New York Jets without too many complaints.
The Titans scored on Marcus Mariota’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis that completed a comeback from a 16-0 first-half deficit that was created in large part by the Titans’ own ineptness in the first two quarters.
Tennessee’s comeback win evens the Titans record at 6-6 with the Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town for a Thursday night game. The Jets, who lost for the sixth straight time, fell to 3-9.
“It showed our mental and physical toughness,” cornerback Malcolm Butler said. “We never game up, regardless of how the game went. We could have thrown in the towel, but we kept fighting.”
Early on, disaster set in for the Titans, who allowed the Jets to break on top 3-0 on the opening series with the first of five Jason Myers field goals.
No sooner had the Titans gotten the ball back than the Jets were back in business, as Marcus Mariota threw to a well-covered Cameron Batson and had the ball picked off by Trumaine Johnson and returned 31 yards for a TD and a 10-0 New York lead.
Things got even worse for the Titans before they got better, as they allowed two more field goals, the second one on a blocked punt where the protection just crumbled on the right side of the line, allowing Kevin Pierre-Lewis to easily break through the line and bad down Brett Kern’s kick.
It didn’t look like it at the time, but the fact that the Titans defense was forcing Josh McCown and the Jets to settle for field goal, despite getting the early breaks, wound up being a factor in the game.
“We had plenty of chances to put the game away and put out foot on their throat and we didn’t do it,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said.
In the first half, even on the rare occasions when the Titans did things right, as they still found adversity at every turn. Tennessee finally found the end zone with 57 seconds left in the half on Mariota’s 12-yard touchdown toss to Anthony Firkser, only to have the Jets block Ryan Succop’s extra point attempt, leaving the score 16-6 at halftime.
Things didn’t get better immediately for Tennessee as the second half began as the Jets tacked on three more points to push the lead to 19-6.
The Titans answered with a touchdown drive, going 75 yards in six plays with Derrick Henry getting to the end zone from a yard out to cut the lead to 19-13.
But the Jets answered right back on another Myers field goal to make it a two-score game again entering the fourth quarter.
The four period belonged to the Titans, as Mariota twice found Taywan Taylor for big gains. After Mariota overthrew Taylor, who missed three games with a foot injury, on what would have been a 50-yard touchdown, the pair connected on a long throw for 44 yards to the Jets 9 that set up a Succop field goal.
The two were back at it again on next series, hooking up on a 55-yarder, but again the Titans settled for a Succop field goal and trailed 22-19 with 5:44 left.
“Tay did a great job of finding ways to get behind those guys,” said Mariota, who shook off the early pick six to go 20 of 35 for 282 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
Despite the big plays by Taylor, the Titans still had work to do, and after going three-and-out on the next possession, Tennessee’s defense held one more time, giving Mariota the ball back at his own 14-yard line with 1:46 to work with.
Thanks to a recovering his own fumble at the end of a 25-yard scramble, plus a 15-yard facemask penalty on the Jets, Mariota and the Titans were within range to tie or win the game.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky and good, and I got lucky,” he said of recovering his own fumble. “I was fortunate enough to grab the ball, but I was trying to make a play for my guys.”
The drive continued with the Titans, who had gone 0-for-10 on third downs in the game, facing a crucial third-and-7 at the 11.
That’s when Mariota found Davis at the 3-yard line and the receiver did the rest rambling his way into the end zone to give Tennessee the lead and eventually the win.
“In the huddle, there was no panic. That starts from the top down. Marcus came in the huddle and he set the tone. He told us, ‘This is kind of what we do,’ and we did it,” Davis said.
Just like they drew it up.