“Marcus did a great job of just staying composed and, you know, Tajae (Sharpe) made a huge catch, Delanie (Walker) and obviously Andre (Johnson) made the biggest play of the game. He’s a hell of a player, you know. We’re lucky to have him here, running back DeMarco Murray commented after the game. “Mariota was calm. He was calm and he knew the play was going to work and he led us calmly down the field and he got us a victory.”
The performance lacked grace, but Mike Mularkey’s theme of “finishing games” appeared to take hold as Johnson hauled in the winning touchdown pass and corner back Perrish Cox solidified the 16-15 victory over the Detroit Lions with an interception.
Here’s what stood out about the team’s first win of the season:
1. Run Game Improved But Still Lacking
Murray ran for 89 yards on 12 carries, rookie Derrick Henry took his nine touches for 40 and quarterback Marcus Mariota contributed 11 yards on two. That total of 139 yards on 24 total carries averaged out to 5.8 per run, up from last week’s dismal figure of 2.9. That 5.8 is made less significant, however, by a 67-yard dash Murray made in the second quarter. That was the second-longest run of his career.
— Jason Wolf (@JasonWolf) September 18, 2016
2. Offensive Line Struggles
This year’s first-round draft choice Jack Conklin looked humbled after he and guard Chance Warmack were dominated on a Murray run that resulted in a safety. Center Ben Jones was handled with ease by Detroit nose tackle Haloti Ngata in poth run and pass play; the constant pressure created three sacks poor decision-making and a muddy pocket all day for Mariota.
3. Mariota Flustered Again But Came Through Late
The lack of downfield passing remains a concern in Terry Robiskie’s offense and the Titans struggled mightily to move the ball vertically for most of the day. Constant pressure from Detroit’s front seven contributed to the stagnation, and an untimely Mariota interception put the Titans down 15-3 through three quarters. But, Mariota threw a 30-yard dart to Delanie Walker for a touchdown on the possession immediately following the pick and led the game-winning drive that culminated in a 4th and four go-ahead strike to Johnson for the win.
4. Perrish Cox Attempts Redemption; Pass Rush Surfaces
Cox picked off Matt Stafford with :22 to play in a one-point game, but his play for the previous 59 minutes and 38 seconds was almost inexcusable. Cox was burned time and time again and got trucked on a 24-yard scramble by Stafford but was not alone in his struggles; Tennessee’s secondary left much to be desired. Four Titan sacks helped gloss over the damage but the run defense gave up large-chunk plays consistently.
5. Penalties Abound
The Titans were sloppy Sunday, accumulating 12 penalties for 83 yards (fortunately, Detroit played just as irreverently). The 29 combined flags thrown came eight shy of the NFL record for most penalties in a game, totaling 18 as they sputtered into halftime.
The Titans have 147 net yards passing, the Lions have 138 yards in penalties.
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) September 18, 2016
Information from ESPN.com, The Tennessean and NFL.com contributed to this report.