CHICAGO -- With the game on the line, Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard spotted a pass heading toward the end zone and knew he had to make a play.
Byard closed in on Chicago Bears wide receiver Deonte Thompson as the ball approached. But he never heard the ball hit the ground, so he waited for the crowd to tell him what happened.
"I'm not going to lie: When I made the hit, I was just hoping that I wasn't going to hear the crowd explode," Byard said with a grin. "Once I didn't hear the crowd, I just got up in jubilation."
Tennessee escaped with a 27-21 win over the Bears on Sunday afternoon after nearly blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The Bears scored the final 14 points and threatened to produce the go-ahead touchdown before stalling on four opportunities from the Titans' 7-yard line in the game's final minute.
Tennessee (6-6) posted its second win in the past three games to climb back to .500. A loss would have crushed the Titans' hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
"It's better than relief," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "It's a win on the road, which we need. These are have-to-win games. We have to win these games to stay in the mix, regardless of what anybody else is doing.
"I don't care how it unfolded, how it ended. We won the game."
Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 15 of 23 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Titans. He also scrambled three times for 47 yards.
In his first career NFL start, Bears quarterback Matt Barkley completed 28 of 54 passes for 316 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Nine receivers caught passes for the Bears.
Chicago (2-9) lost for the third week in a row and the sixth time in the past seven games.
"The results are wins and losses, and the results have not been good," Bears coach John Fox said. "But just as I told the team, it was a pretty gritty, hard-fought game to get back into it. We just have to play better for 60 minutes."
Chicago opened the scoring on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Barkley to tight end Daniel Brown with 4:27 remaining in the first quarter. The play marked the first career touchdown pass for Barkley and the first career touchdown reception for Brown, a second-year player out of James Madison.
Tennessee evened the score at 7 on running back Derrick Henry's 11-yard rushing touchdown with four seconds left in the first quarter. A block by tight end Delanie Walker created space for Henry to sprint for the second touchdown of his rookie campaign.
Walker hauled in a 4-yard touchdown pass on the next possession to give the Titans a 14-7 lead.
Tennessee made it 21-7 with 1:15 to go in the first half on a dazzling 29-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Rishard Matthews. Mariota lobbed a pass deep down the center of the field and Matthews extended his arms to make a diving catch in the back of the end zone.
"I thought he had overthrown it," Mularkey said. "Rishard really did a good job."
Kicker Ryan Succop padded the lead with back-to-back field goals to increase the Titans' lead to 27-7 with 13:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. He connected from distances of 19 yards and 31 yards.
That is when Barkley and the rest of the Bears' offense awakened.
Barkley hit wide receiver Marquess Wilson with an 8-yard touchdown strike with 8:23 to play to cut the deficit to 27-14. He marched the team downfield again before connecting with Thompson for a 6-yard touchdown to pull the Bears within 27-21 with 3:06 remaining.
"Even though we lost, it's encouraging at the same time to see how these guys fought," Barkley said.
Titans linebacker Avery Williamson said he and his teammates could learn from the close call.
"In the end, we made a play," Williamson said.
NOTES: Bears QB Jay Cutler did not play because of a right shoulder injury he sustained in Week 11 against the New York Giants. ... Titans S Daimion Stafford (hamstring) and TE Phillip Supernaw (concussion) did not play. ... Bears WR Alshon Jeffery and LB Jerrell Freeman missed the game as they served suspensions for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. ... Titans TE Delanie Walker matched a career high with his sixth touchdown reception of the season. ... Bears LB Leonard Floyd (concussion) and LG Josh Sitton (ankle) did not play. ... Bears LB Danny Trevathan exited the game late in the fourth quarter because of a right knee injury.