Marcus Mariota's late TD pass pushes Tennessee Titans past Detroit Lions

By Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 19, 2016 at 12:33 AM
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DETROIT -- Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans' offense found their groove at just the right moment.

Wide receiver Andre Johnson caught a 9-yard scoring pass from Mariota on fourth down with 1:13 remaining, lifting the Titans to a 16-15 penalty-filled win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.

Johnson's lone catch of the game on fourth-and-4 finished off a 13-play, 83-yard drive. Mariota completed all nine of his pass attempts on the possession, which began with the Titans trailed 15-10.

"It's a valuable lesson for all of us," Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said. "Every game I've ever coached, I've learned something. This is something they can take with them and know if we're ever in this situation again, we have a chance to come back on the road against a good team."

Perrish Cox's interception with 22 seconds left sealed the win for Tennessee (1-1).

"I think the breaks were even," Mularkey said. "There were a lot of breaks for both teams. I like that at the end there, when we needed to make a stand, we came together and made it happen against a very potent offense."

Tennessee gave away a 10-point halftime lead to Minnesota in its opener, allowing two defensive touchdowns in the second half. The Titans were held to three points through three quarters on Sunday, but their second-year quarterback showed good poise.

Mariota was 25 of 33 for 238 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. DeMarco Murray gained 89 yards on 12 carries and caught seven passes for 56 yards.

"The guys felt like we were going to win," Johnson said. "No matter how this game went, all the penalties called or whatever happened, nobody got down. Everybody kept their focus and the focus was just winning, man. That was the mindset and we got it done."

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 40 for 260 yards with one touchdown and an interception for Detroit (1-1). Marvin Jones caught eight passes for 118 yards. Running back Ameer Abdullah suffered a foot injury late in the first half and did not return.

The Lions committed 17 penalties for 138 yards, while the Titans were flagged for 12 for 83 yards.

"It's on everybody, you know," Stafford said. "Everybody had their hand in it -- receivers, running backs, tight end, O-line, me -- from the offensive side of the ball. It wasn't good enough and we'll work to correct it. That's all you can do."

Detroit emerged from a penalty-filled first half with a 12-3 lead.

The Lions' defense produced the first points midway through the opening quarter. With Tennessee backed up to its 5-yard line, defensive end Devin Taylor broke through the line and pulled down Murray in the end zone for a safety.

Stafford showed some nimbleness on the Lions' first offensive touchdown. He scrambled to his left and found Anquan Boldin in the middle of the end zone with 4:15 remaining in the first quarter.

Ryan Succop's 46-yard field goal with 12:03 left in the half put the Titans on the board.

The Lions drove all the way to the Titans' 1-yard line, then had two apparent touchdown passes wiped out by penalties on back-to-back plays. They ended up settling for Matt Prater's 42-yard field goal.

"We know that we could have been way better," Detroit wide receiver Golden Tate said. "One thing that pops out in my mind is the penalties. We've got to cut out the penalties. In this league, when you move the ball and score multiple times and get them called back 10-15 yards from the previous spot, it's tough to win games."

Prater connected from 27 yards out late in the third to make it 15-3. That score was set up by Stafford's 24-yard scramble and a roughing the passer penalty.

Tight end Delanie Walker caught a 30-yard scoring pass from Mariota on the first play of the fourth quarter, cutting Detroit's lead to five.

NOTES: Detroit DE Ziggy Ansah suffered a left ankle injury on the first defensive series and did not return. ... WR Kendall Wright and OLB Derrick Morgan, who are nursing hamstring injuries, were among the notable inactives for Tennessee. Lions OLB DeAndre Levy (quad) and TE Cole Wick (shoulder) headed the team's list of inactives. ... Titans QB Marcus Mariota threw 10 touchdown passes and was intercepted just once in six road games last season. ... The Titans won the last four meetings, most recently a 44-41 overtime victory in 2012. Detroit's last victory came on Dec. 10, 1995, when the Tennessee franchise was still in Houston.

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