JOE BIDDLE: Titans let it slip away

(Courtesy: Daishawn Hayes)

They left their heart in San Francisco.

It seemed Titans kicker Ryan Succop was going to beat the 49ers, 23-22 with a clutch 50-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining.

Oh, but the Niners had a kicker of their own. Veteran Robbie Gould had been cut from the Chicago Bears last season in September.

Gould nailed a 45-yard field goal to end the Titans West Coast trip as the Niners rallied to win a 25-23 game that sent the Titans packing back to Music City with their third straight loss, dropping them to 8-6.

Mathematically, the Titans can still get in the playoffs. But unless they get their helmets on straight, it won’t do any good.

If someone can figure out the Titans offensive play-calling, please help me. I’m begging.

They had headed West for a two-game road trip to Arizona and on to San Francisco.

They lost 12-7 to a 5-7 Arizona team. The Titans offense piled up a whopping seven points in losing.

They stayed in Arizona and according to Coach Mike Mularkey and Titans players, they were bonding and becoming as one for all and all for one.

Sunday they faced a 49ers team that came into the game with a 3-10 record.

The Titans should have jumped all over the Niners, if indeed they had to obtain a shot of confidence in Arizona.

What happened? Same old Titans. The slow start pattern reared its ugly head again.

And 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo proved to be the answer their team needed. What’s a Garoppolo, you ask?

Better ask Titans defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau.

Garoppolo played at Eastern Illinois. He was drafted by the New England Patriots, where he had two starts in 17 games. The Pats traded him to the Niners after four seasons. Against the Titans he was 31 of 43 passing for 381 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He completed passes to nine different players, including himself when he caught a ball that was tipped.

It started off just about how most of the Titans games started.

They received the kickoff and went three and out. The second possession had the same three and punt pattern. Meanwhile San Francisco took the lead with a field goal.

The home team tacked on a second field goal and led 6-0 after the first quarter. Titans kicker Ryan Succop put the Titans on the scoreboard, still trailing 6-3.

They went on to trail 16-3 before the Titans scored their first touchdown to go to halftime trailing 16-10.

Where were all the good things they professed they accomplished in Arizona? Mularkey said they had some of the best practices of the season. A number of players stayed over after the practices.

They thought they had ironed out all their problems, especially on offense. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was three for his first six passes Sunday for only 30 yards and no touchdowns. Down 16-3 in the second quarter, Mariota finally hit Delanie Walker in the end zone, going into halftime trailing 16-10.

Mariota knows this offense relies on him. He apologized for his play after the Arizona loss. Against San Francisco, he was 23 of 33 for 242 yards and two touchdowns and more importantly no interceptions. He completed 69.7 of his passes and a rating of 110.9

If this team is going to get in the playoffs and go deep, Mariota has to be the pilot that drives the airplane. They have difficulty finding any rhythm.

Sunday they will be underdogs against the L.A. Rams and also the Jaguars in the final regular season games, both at Nissan Stadium. Both teams are playing better now than the Titans.

The Titans will have to earn it. The odds are against them.

If they go out with a three-game losing streak, this season will have been a failure. Mularkey’s job should be debated. The only way he can save it is to get his team to go out with a two-game win streak. It would give them 10 wins, a number that should have been more than that.

If they lose the last two games, they finish 8-8. This franchise has had its fill of being a .500 team.

It’s up to them how they want to finish.

Joe Biddle is a sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at