NASHVILLE – The Titans honored a pair of legends on Sunday.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t cap the day with a win -- the Colts left town with a 19-17 win over the Titans before a sun-baked crowd at Nissan Stadium.
“We let one slip for sure,” said Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who completed 19-of-28 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown.
It was an emotional day at Nissan Stadium, as the jersey numbers of former Titans quarterback Steve McNair (No.9) and running back Eddie George (No.27) were retired in a halftime ceremony.
But the Titans didn’t do enough to win it. Offensively, the team squandered too many chances, while the defense gave up too many plays.
“Our focus was on the Colts, and we didn’t get the job done today,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said. “I am happy that Eddie George and Steve McNair had their jerseys retired. But the bottom line is when you look at the football game, we didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”
The Titans took the lead on their first possession of the second half on a one-yard touchdown run by running back Derrick Henry, which made it 14-13. Henry finished the game with 81 rushing yards.
The Titans stretched the lead to 17-13 roughly seven minutes later on a 49-yard field goal by kicker Cairo Santos, which followed a fumble recovery by linebacker Harold Landry.
It looked like the Titans were on their way.
But the Colts regained the lead with 4:38 left in the contest on a four-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jacoby Brissett to receiver T.Y. Hilton, which made it 19-17.
Trailing with 1:07 left, the Titans got the ball back on their own 28-yard line with a chance to win it. The plan was to get Santos in a position for a game-winning field goal, but it didn’t happen. The drive stalled on the Indianapolis 45-yard line when Mariota’s pass to receiver A.J. Brown fell incomplete.
“We had full belief to go down there and score, and we thought if we got into their territory, anywhere near, he would have a chance to put it up,” Mariota said. “Looking back on it, wish we would have gotten a few more chances to get the ball down the field. I have to do a better job of the operation … so that maybe we have a chance to gain a first down.”
With the loss, the Titans dropped to 1-1.
“We talked about being able to win the fourth quarter, in where we’ve been and where they are now, the ability to win the games in the fourth quarter,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “That was a strength of ours coming in, and a strength of theirs, and they proved better in that regard today in winning the fourth quarter.”
The Titans were just 1-of-10 on third down in the contest, and the offense had four three-and-outs in the game while managing just 242 yards of offense on the day.
There was disappointment all around in the Titans locker room.
“When you lose, if you feel happy about it you shouldn’t be in this locker room pretty much,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “We lost -- they beat us. We didn’t make enough plays.”
The Colts took an early 7-0 lead in a three-yard touchdown pass from Brissett to tight end Eric Ebron.
The Titans scored their first touchdown of the game on a one-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to tackle David Quessenberry, who lined up as a jumbo tight end. The score capped a 10-play, 72-yard drive that saw Mariota go 6-of-6 while completing passes to six different targets.
It was a special moment for Quessenberry, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in June 2014 while with the Texans. His cancer went into remission after he completed radiation treatment in February 2015, and he completed his full treatment in April 2017, and returned to practice with the Texans.
Quessenberry joined the Titans last year, and he made the team’s 53-man roster this season.
“I have been through a lot, and it has been a long journey to get here,” Quessenberry said. “Even with all of that, to go out there and score a touchdown, it is crazy. That was amazing. It was epic.”
The Colts got their other touchdown in the first half on 12-yard touchdown pass from Brissett to receiver Parris Campbell, which made it 13-7 at the half.
The Titans travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars on Thursday night.
“It’s a loss and we’ve got to get over it,” linebacker Rashaan Evans said. “We have to play the Jaguars on Thursday, so all we can do right now is go back to the drawing board and look at what we did wrong. But at the same time, we’ve got to go. There is no time for waiting.
“That’s what we expected, we expected it to be a tough game. You win and you lose some. At the end of the day, the great thing about the NFL, you get another opportunity to go and play another game next week, you know? Get another win under your belt, get that confidence back, just get back to playing good football.”
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in their 2019 home opener at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)