Titans 26, Jets 22: Five things to know from season-saving win

Erik Bacharach
The Tennessean
Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) celebrates his touchdown in the third quarter Sunday.

 Hardly anything about it was pretty. The offense was inconsistent. Special teams were at times disastrous. And the Titans nearly beat themselves for the third straight week.

Instead, they did enough to maintain a pulse until the very end. Then they put the ball in the hands of the quarterback who somehow always finds a way to win. Then they escaped Nissan Stadium with a 26-22 season-saver against the lowly Jets (3-9) on Sunday.

Here are five things to know as the Titans moved to 6-6 and kept their playoff hopes alive.

Marcus Mariota does it again

For the 12th time in his career – and the eighth time since the start of last season, including the playoffs – Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota orchestrated a game-winning drive.

This one had to be as quick as it was long. It was. Mariota and the offense needed just six plays and 70 seconds to cover 86 yards for the winning score, an 11-yard touchdown pass to receiver Corey Davis. The drive also included a 25-yard scramble by Mariota in which he barreled over multiple Jets defenders and recovered his own fumble.

The Titans' path to January football remains difficult. But it's still intact.

Slow start

Remember last week when the Titans quickly built a 10-0 lead against the Texans, only to implode immediately thereafter? Well, they tried the opposite approach this week, allowing the Jets to score the game’s first 16 points.

Like the Texans, the Titans dug themselves out of the hole they created. Credit the defense for coming up with some huge stops and the Titans for being timely with their offensive successes.


Bipolar offense

Mariota's connection with Davis marked the team's first third-down conversion of the game (they were previously 0-for-10). And what a wild, inconsistent ride it was to arrive at that point.

After the Titans punted on their first possession, their second ended with a disastrous miscalculation by Mariota. The Titans quarterback was looking for receiver Cameron Batson on a slant, but he was covered well. Jets cornerback Trumaine Johnson jumped the route and picked off the pass before running 31 yards for a touchdown.

After an otherwise lifeless first half offensively, the Titans finally showed a pulse late in the second quarter, capping a 68-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to tight end Anthony Firkser.

The Titans also had another long drive in the third quarter – running back Derrick Henry capped a six-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard rushing score, his fifth of the season – before their game-winning drive.

The most encouraging sign was the emergence of Taywan Taylor. Twice the speedy wide receiver, who had not played since injuring his foot in Week 10, blew past the Jets secondary for long receptions in the second half, one a 44-yard gain and the other a 55-yarder.

Defense keeps Titans in it

The Jets were without starting quarterback Sam Darnold, and backup Josh McCown wasn't all that effective in his place, finishing 17-of-30 passing for 128 yards.

The Jets' final five possessions featured four punts and the game-sealing interception by cornerback Malcolm Butler.

The biggest stat: New York was 0-for-3 in the red zone. The Jets put up 22 points without scoring an offensive touchdown. Placekicker Jason Myers knocked in all five of his field-goal tries.


Blunders galore on special teams

Toward the end of the second quarter, Titans punter Brett Kern had his kick attempt blocked by Jets linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis. Titans safety Brynden Trawick, lined up on the right side, allowed Pierre-Louis to go right by him. The Jets recovered the loose ball to set themselves up at the Tennessee 18-yard line.

There was also a blocked extra point. In the waning moments of the second quarter, Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson got his hands on a point-after attempt by Ryan Succop.

A third special teams gaffe came in kickoff coverage. Andre Roberts had a 61-yard return on the opening kick of the third quarter that set the Jets up at the Tennessee 42. But the Titans defense forced a three-and-out, a quickly developing trend in the second half.

Reach Erik Bacharach at ebacharach@tennessean.com and on Twitter @ErikBacharach.