NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Ho! Ho! Ho! Christmas came early for the Tennessee Titans.
They won a home game for the first time in more than a year. It was Oct. 12, 2014 when the home crowd went home with a smile.
You can thank Jacksonville for both of those rare Titans home wins.
Sunday was a nail-biting Nissan Stadium shootout, leaving tortured Titans faithful holding their breath until Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota took a knee in the shadow of the Jags goal line as the final seconds ran dry.
It was Tennessee Titans, 42-39. Don’t pinch yourself. It’s true.
The Titans led most of the game, but the old fourth quarter curse threatened again.
The Jaguars took a 32-28 lead with 10:09 left on the game clock.
That’s when it got funky. Really funky.
On third-and-seven from their own 13, thanks to an idiotic, selfish head butt on the kickoff by special teamer/tight end Phillip Supernaw pushed the Titans back half the distance to their goal line.
Thankfully the Titans had drafted a rookie magician in the second pick of this year’s NFL draft.
So on third down Marvelous Marcus Mariota took matters in his own hands, uh, legs.
The quarterback ran 87 yards to daylight. It was not only a game-changer it was the longest touchdown run by any NFL player this season.
Mariota was 20 of 29, passing for 268 yards. He accounted for four touchdowns. Rookie wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham had his best game of the season, grabbing five passes for 119 yards and a touchdown.
Green-Beckham has been soaking up what his coaches and teammates have been telling him.
“(Wide receivers) Coach (Shawn) Jefferson has been telling me, ‘Just look the ball in. Look the ball in.’ I was just trying to make plays, trying to do the things my teammates wanted me to do,’’ he said.
Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham made a potent one-two offensive punch.
“It’s special anytime you get a win in the NFL,’’ Mariota understated.
The timing could not have been better. Titans fans were growing weary of watching a team that wasted winning opportunities during this season.
They were becoming the NFL version of Vanderbilt, playing close and having chances to win games, but incapable of closing the deals. The Titans have invented ways of losing and there were a significant number of empty seats at Nissan Stadium Sunday.
Mularkey said he wanted to change the culture when he replaced former coach Ken Whisenhunt. They are playing better, more inspired, but it has taken this long to show winning results. They are now 3-9, and Mularkey has a 2-3 record as the interim coach.
The Titans got off to a fast start, leading 21-12 at halftime. It was 21-19 after three quarters, and the final quarter fireworks were on deck. The two teams combined for 41 points in the final 15 minutes.
This time the Titans didn’t give. They received a long awaited gift.
I’m sure Santa Claus won’t mind that they opened their Christmas present early. They earned it.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.