Coming off of a bye week which saw Titans’ general manager Jon Robinson sit still, it was pretty important that his roster began to show some sort of offensive progress. Early on in Dallas, we didn’t see that.
It was Marcus Mariota fumbling after immediate pressure was given up by Jack Conklin, then Dion Lewis coughed it up on the following drive. Two quick turnovers gave the Cowboys a shot to blow this thing open early, but luckily for the Titans, Brett Maher missed a field goal and Dak Prescott threw a pick in the endzone.
Somehow, Tennessee escaped a disastrous start down just 7-0.
It took a quarter, but the offense finally settled in. Marcus Mariota converted a couple of third down throws and got just enough out of his run game to tie this one up. Derrick Henry capped off a 15 play, 80 yard drive with a one yard touchdown run.
Again, somehow, this game was tied.
The Titans defense was fired up. They quickly got off the field and handed a hot Marcus Mariota the football again. Mariota immediately delivered, drilling Darius Jennings over the middle for a huge gain, then finding Dion Lewis on a screen to finish the drive with a touchdown.
Everything was going so well, then Prescott decided to throw at Malcolm Butler. Butler — the high-priced free agent acquisition from New England — had already given up a touchdown to Amari Cooper. He followed that up by giving up a touchdown on a double move to Allen Hurns.
That score brought us back to even at the halftime break, 14-14.
Jayon Brown got the second half rolling with a sack-fumble. The whistle initially appeared to blow, but the referees eventually ruled that the Titans recovered the ball before that happened.
The Titans took over in Dallas territory and immediately went to work. Dion Lewis picked up a first down, then Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor picked up a couple more chunks. Jonnu Smith capped the drive with a shovel pass reception on an option look. Smith stumbled into the endzone to regain the Titans the lead at 21-14.
Dean Pees’ defense got another stop to follow. Once more, the Titans drove right down the field. This time, Marcus Mariota missed a wide open Corey Davis in the endzone. Tennessee settled for a field goal attempt, which Ryan Succop missed.
Suddenly, the Cowboys had new life. The Titans had a shot to put this one away with 11 minutes to play, but failed to do so on back to back plays.
One more time — the defense held. It was Harold Landry getting the sack on Prescott, forcing another Dallas punt.
Another screen pass to Dion Lewis flipped the field, setting the Titans up for points with under eight minutes to play. Mariota finished the drive himself this time, keeping it right up the gut for six.
Just like that, it was 28-14 Titans and this one was over.
Marcus Mariota finished 21-29 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He added 33 on the ground and another touchdown.
Tonight was a massive moment for the Titans, who stabilized themselves and got right back in the race for the AFC South. Now sitting at 4-4 — finally with Marcus Mariota looking healthy and like himself again, maybe, just maybe, this offense is starting to find their footing. The defense certainly looks ready, outside of Malcolm Butler.
They’ll face a stiff test next week with the Patriots coming to town, but the schedule lightens up after that.