Soon after the Titans had closed out the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in a 13-10 nail-biter, the Nissan Stadium’s sound system belted out this immortal James Brown’s classic soul song: “Whoa, I feel good. I knew that I would. Now I feel good … So good, so good. I feel good.’’
It was loud enough to be heard over the Kentucky and Alabama borders.
The Titans did feel good. They have enjoyed the fruits of their labor. It hasn’t been easy. They have found ways to lose close games.
Sunday they learned how to win – how to beat a quality opponent. How to climb over the .500 mark with a 7-6 record tied with the Houston Texans for the overall records in the AFC South. The two teams will square off at Nissan Stadium in the regular season finale. There may be playoff payoffs on the line.
While the Titans offense has been on fire lately by depositing points on NFL scoreboards, they relied on their defense and special team play to drop Denver to 8-5 overall.
“That’s how it’s going to be sometimes,’’ Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “Hat’s off to the defense. They deserve a lot of credit for this victory.’’
It was a highly contested game. Nerves were frayed on both sides. Players on both teams spent a lot of time jawing with their opponents. At times I thought the game officials lost control of the game.
Titans Coach Mike Mularkey oozed with optimism after the game. He saw what he has been looking for this season.
“We’re going to be in a lot of close games. We’ve been in close games all year, and we haven’t found ways to win them like today, but we found a way to win and that’s going to be good for us down the road,’’ he said.
“It’s a credit to everybody. … It confirms that you know you can. We have won some close games against some good football teams and all it does, it reconfirms what we’re doing, that we can play with anybody in this league.’’
There were solid individual plays that led to the win. None other than that play made by wide receiver Tre McBride, in his second season out of William & Mary.
The Titans were clinging to a 13-10 lead with under five minutes left in the game. They were forced to punt on their final possession. Punter Brett Kern lofted a beauty, but it was McBride that raced down field and downed the punt on the Broncos’ two-yard line. The game clock had only 2:26 on it. It would not be enough time. The Broncos fumbled. The Titans’ Avery Williamson jumped on it and Mariota knelt three times to preserve the victory.
I believe it was the best game the Titans have played since owner Bud Adams passed away. They had gone through Mike Munchak as head coach. They changed ownership and assistant coach Mike Mularkey was elevated to the head coach, a move that was widely second-guessed. But the players like him and play hard.
Mularkey has even gotten inside offensive tackle Taylor Lewan’s head. When there was an altercation brewing, Leway ran away from it to the Titans sideline.
“The crowd loved it,’’ Lewan said. “It was a nice little theatrical thing … It was a nice little fun thing in the moment, a little comedic relief in a stressful situation.’’
Those situations are fun only when you are winning. And the Titans have that feeling. They feel good. They knew that they would.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.