NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans (8-5) scored first in their inaugural trip to University of Phoenix Stadium but would not find the end zone again for the duration of their 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals (6-7).
Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 16-of-31 passes for 159 yards and two interceptions. In his third NFL season, the Heisman Trophy winner has 10 touchdown passes against 14 picks. The running game was equally anemic, totaling a mere 65 yards on 22 carries.
Neither team was able to sustain any kind of offense in the scoreless first quarter. Arizona and Tennessee combined for six punts of the first six possessions of the game; three for both the Titans and Cardinals, respectively. Two crucial third-down conversions on Tennessee’s nine-play, 50-yard drive, culminating in a six-yard rushing score by running back Derrick Henry, helped give the Titans a 7-0 lead with 7:16 remaining in the first half.
The touchdown would be the Titans only points of the day.
Four sacks by Tennessee’s defense stifled Arizona before haltime, allowing only five Cardinals first downs through two quarters of play. Kicker Ryan Succop had the opportunity to increase the margin to 10 before heading into the locker room, but came up short on a 58-yard field goal.
The nine-year veteran’s career-longest was made from 54.
Arizona quarterback Blaine Gabbert found no safe haven from the pass rush after halftime. The back-up quarterback brought his team 48 yards in nine plays and in position to score but linebacker Brian Orakpo snuffed out the drive with another sack on third down and Arizona was forced to settle for a 47-yard field goal to make the score 7-3. The Titans pass rush would get to Gabbert eight times before the contest was through.
Cardinals defenders were able to fluster Mariota with three sacks of their own
Coach Mike Mularkey’s offense gained only 62 yards in the second half of the loss. Mariota’s interceptions both came in the final two quarters and allowed Arizona to take a lead they would not relinquish.
A failed fake by Tennessee’s punting unit helped compound matters when special-teamer Eric Weems carried the ball on fourth down and was initially ruled past the first-down marker. But Cardinals coach Bruce Arians challenged the spot and officials overturned the ruling, placing Arizona deep in Titans territory at the Tennessee 35.
The Titans defense did not allow a touchdown in the loss and gave up only 261 yards to Gabbert and company.
With the loss, Tennessee falls behind the Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) for second place in the AFC South.
INJURY REPORT: Left tackle Taylor Lewan sustained an injury to his back in the second quarter and was later ruled out for the duration of the game. Mularkey said the team would determine the severity after an MRI. Reserve offensive lineman Dennis Kelly finished in place of the Pro Bowl tackle.
Mularkey said that Mariota suffered a knee injury early in the game that he was able to play through.
UP NEXT: Tennessee will stay on the West Coast for the week in preparations for a second consecutive road game. They face the San Francisco 49ers (3-10) in Santa Clara, California.