Just when you thought the Titans had a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter against a Carolina Panthers team that played the preseason game without starting quarterback Cam Newton, the curtains dropped on the Titans.
Trailing most of the game, the Panthers came within a field goal that could have forced overtime.
The Alex Tanney train slowed to a crawl. The third quarterback on the Titans depth chart had a horrid outing in the first game, as the Titans lost to the New York Jets in an action packed game 7-3.
The Titans desperately needed a touchdown to win Saturday’s game.
Most of the crowd was long gone and overtime lurked closer and closer. Fluellen’s touchdown just under two minutes left in regulation gave the Titans a 34-27 win.
Thank you David Fluellen. I know, David. You are a long shot to stick with the Titans. You are fighting Akeem Judd to win the third string running back spot. But you got the job done with your three-yard touchdown run with 1:55 left in the game.
Holy Toledo, (that’s where Fluellen played college football) you saved the Titans from sinking to 0-2 on the preseason.
“He can run the ball,’’ Titans Coach Mike Mularkey said of Fluellen. “I trust him.’’
If Fluellen makes the team, it will likely be because of his special teams contributions.
Mularkey saw more bright spots in this game than he did against the Jets.
So did quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“This was the blueprint as how we can be successful this season. It says a lot of who we are,’’ Mariota said. He completed six of his eight passes before he left for halftime. They covered 61 yards. One was a four-yard touchdown throw to Delanie Walker. It was the first Titans touchdown in the game. He added a nine-yard run out of the pocket.
“The intensity, the focus was where we want it to be,’’ Mariota said.
But for my money, I thought Fluellen showed he belongs on the roster.
He ran three times for a team high 57 yards, a 19.0 yard per run. He also caught a three-yard pass.
The first half featured the ones against the ones and some twos against the twos.
“It was a lot better,’’ Mularkey said of his team’s first half lead of 24-10.
Even without Cam Newton, the Panthers featured rookie Christian McCaffrey, who showed his versatility. Their first round draft choice out of Stanford ran three times for 33 yards and a touchdown. He caught two passes for 39 yards. His longest was 38 yards.
The Titans converted on three for three fourth down plays. They made 360 yards for the game, while the Panthers made 386 yards. For the second straight game, the Titans could not limit their penalties. They had 11 flags for 93 yards. That alone will get you beat in close games. On the other hand they didn’t have a fumble or interception. They made perfect on three field goal attempts.
The Titans possessed the ball just over 34 minutes while holding the Panthers to just under 26 minutes.
All in all, as in most preseason games, the Titans had good plays. They had bad plays. They corrected a number of mistakes from the opening game.
“It was a good win for a lot of reasons,’’ Mularkey said. “We did a lot of good things from all three groups. We just executed better.
“We needed it. It will be a great tape to teach off of.’’
The Bears are next. They visit Nissan Stadium next Sunday
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at email@example.com