Titans win a close one at home

Titans QB Marcus Mariota passes against the Carolina Panther on August 19. (photo: Donn Jones, courtesy of Titansonline)

Titans QB Marcus Mariota passes against the Carolina Panther on August 19.
(photo: Donn Jones, courtesy of Titansonline)

The heat was on — literally — as the ambient temperature in Music City soared into the 90’s, the heat inside Nissan Stadium was stifling Saturday afternoon as the Titans hosted the Carolina Panthers. Although the paid attendance was 61,159, you could see plenty of empty seats throughout the stadium for the Titans’ second preseason game, their first of the year at home, at an odd time, a 2:00 p.m. kickoff. You have to wonder how many stayed around to see their children at half-time, as more than 500 cheerleaders and dance squad members from the mid-state performed.

Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota came out fired up and firing on all cylinders, though. Mariota completed 6 of his 8 pass attempts for 61 yards and a touchdown – a four-yard completion to tight end Delanie Walker. The Titans took a 10 – 0 lead after their first two offensive series and Mariota was replaced by back-up Matt Cassel for the rest of the first half, and Alex Tanney for the second half of the game.

“The intensity, the focus, the mentality in practice was there where we wanted it to be and I think it carried over into the game,” Mariota said after the win.

On the team’s first offensive play of the game, Mariota connected with rookie receiver Taywan Taylor on a 20-yard pass across the middle. On the next play, he ripped off a nine-yard run to his right. Completions to receiver Tre McBride (for 21 yards) and tight end Jonnu Smith(six yards) put the Titans on their way, and set up a 34-yard field goal from kicker Ryan Succop to make it 3-0. The Titans made it 10-0 after forcing a turnover. Running back Derrick Henry converted a fourth-down run, and Mariota connected with Walker in the end zone a few plays later.

“It was just a great play call by the offensive coordinator,” Walker said. “Came inside, and we got the coverage we were looking for. I’m not even going to lie, the linebacker did a good job by banging me, I think it kind of messed up his DB a little bit. Marcus (Mariota) made a great throw. I caught the ball for the touchdown, but it was a great offensive performance moving the ball to get us down there in the red zone.”

It all added up to a 34-27 win for the Titans over the Panthers on Saturday at Nissan Stadium. It was a big improvement from the previous week, when the team turned in an underwhelming performance in a loss to the Jets.

Derek Anderson had started at quarterback for the injured Cam Newton, and played the first and second quarters, replaced by Joe Webb for the third, and Garrett Gilbert for the fourth. After the Titans led 24-10 at the half, the Panthers scored twice in the third quarter, with a pair of touchdowns, including the Panthers only passing TD, from Webb, while the Titans managed only a 50-yard field goal by Succop. The Panthers tied the score at 27-27 with under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter on a Graham Gano field goal. The heat was definitely on then!

A huge defensive play set up the game-winning touchdown, a three-yard run by Titans third string running back David Fluellen in the closing minutes. Fluellen’s touchdown run came after Tennessee defensive lineman Jimmy Staten recovered a fumble caused by Titan linebacker Aaron Wallace. Staten pounced on the ball at the 3 yard line, and Fluellen punched it in following the two-minute warning to seal the 34-27 victory for the home team and the sun-baked fans remaining.

The Titans host the Chicago Bears on Sunday, August 27 at 12 Noon in Nissan Stadium. That game will be telecast on the FOX network nationwide, on WZTV Channel 17 in Nashville. The Titans final preseason game is in Kansas City against the Chiefs on Thursday, August 31; kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and that game will be telecast locally in Nashville on WKRN – Channel 2. The Titans open the regular season at home against the Oakland Raiders at 12 Noon on Sunday, September 10; that game will be telecast on the CBS network nationwide, on WTVF Channel 5 in Nashville.