JOE BIDDLE: Titans got even in Motown

(Courtesy: Daishawn Hayes)
(Courtesy: Daishawn Hayes)

It’s been a long time coming.

Fans were bailing out on the Titans after they lost to the Vikings with a backup quarterback.

They were promised the losing culture that was leaving them with a bad taste in their mouths game after game would be changed.

It arrived Sunday against the Lions, as the two-tone blue came from behind to win a 16-15 cardiac stress test.

That performance should restore the faith in Titans town. This game was won with guts.

It wasn’t pretty on either side. For most of the game I thought both teams were celebrating Flag Day, which I thought was always on June 14. There were a total of 29 accepted penalties worth 191 yards of real estate. The Titans still missed too many tackles.

The Titans had 12 penalties for 83 yards. The Lions took 17 penalties for 138 yards.

Former Nashville prep star and Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate shouldered the blame for his Lions’ loss. He was held to two receptions for only 13 yards and was flagged with two of the Lions’ 17 penalties.

He told the Detroit News he “absolutely’’ should have caught two deep passes in the final quarter. “Those are balls that I think I can catch. I’ve got to find a way to catch those and that’s that…. If it’s in my area code, I need to catch it.’’

Yes, it was a sloppy game at times. Neither team could get in rhythm and maintain it. So what? Whatever the Titans lacked in style points, they made up with a will to win that had not been seen around here in quite some time.

It was a man’s game. No weaklings allowed.

“I think we learned some lessons about ourselves today,’’ Titans Coach Mike Mularkey told Titansonline. “I think we know who we are and what we are capable of doing.

“I was really proud of the grit this team showed.’’

The first one to blink was going to lose.

You like close games, decided in the final seconds? You couldn’t have had it any closer with a vice grip.

Local restaurants and bars were filled with fans yelling and screaming when the Titans came through in the second half.

All the new pieces of the puzzle meshed with those that were fed up with losing. All the new free agents, all those in the recent draft class, the new coaching staff and lest we forget, the new general manager Jon Robinson saw what they hope was the future in Detroit. Robinson was in the winning locker room Sunday, a game ball in his possession.

I have to give credit to Amy Adams Strunk, who is spending the money needed to be a first class organization. She signed off on a practice facility renovation, on giving Robinson the money he needed to upgrade the roster. Mularkey surrounded himself with those assistant coaches he knew and trusted.

It finally paid dividends.

Now they have to carry it forward.

Second year quarterback Marcus Mariota put last week’s disappointing season opener loss behind him.

Down 15-10 and time running out, Mariota went to veteran Andre Johnson, whose best days are behind him. Johnson proved he still has enough gas in his tank to make big plays when they count.

Johnson split two Lions defenders in the end zone and held on to Mariota’s nine-yard game-winning pass like it was a newborn baby.

Mariota orchestrated a 13-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that ate up 5:51, leaving only 73 seconds on the game clock. Both teams left with 1-1 records.

Each team had 22 first downs. Time of possession was barely a minute apart. Mariota was 25 for 33 passing and finished with a 102.8 passer rating.

It is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

Fasten your seat belts.

Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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