EditorsNote: fixing spelling of Schwenke
Titans survive, edge out Ravens
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In their first four possessions of the second half Sunday, the Tennessee Titans managed exactly one first down and saw the Baltimore Ravens reduce a once-comfortable 10-point lead down to a field goal.
But when it most needed a touchdown, Tennessee produced one. Marcus Mariota capped a 75-yard march with an 11-yard scoring strike to Eric Decker, giving it the cushion it needed to hold off Baltimore 23-20 at Nissan Stadium.
Mariota, who finished 19-for-28 with 218 yards, two scores and an interception, scrambled to his left and away from trouble. Then he found Decker, who rubbed a pair of defensive backs off each other at the goal line, with 3:58 remaining in the game.
That was the play that enabled the Titans (5-3) to remain in a first-place tie with Jacksonville in the AFC South.
"We got in the huddle and said, 'Our defense is playing good, let's step it up,'" tight end Delanie Walker said. "Everyone was executing and doing their job. That's when we play at our best, when we're on the same page and not worrying about someone else's job."
Mariota bounced back from a poor throw that safety Eric Weddle picked off on the previous drive. That interception set up Joe Flacco's 3-yard touchdown pass to Javorius Allen with 8:56 left that drew the Ravens (4-5) within 16-13.
During the clinching march, Mariota hit 5 of 6 passes for 63 yards, converting a third down with a 6-yard throw to running back Derrick Henry. Two plays later, he hit a leaping Walker over the middle for 25 yards to the Baltimore 35, then flipped a 17-yard pass to running back DeMarco Murray to the 18.
"When we had to have them produce," defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said of the offense, "they came through for us."
Most of the day, Casey, safety Kevin Byard and the defense headlined the show for Tennessee. Casey disrupted the Ravens' interior line, producing five tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.
Byard, who picked off three passes in the Titans' last game two weeks ago at Cleveland, intercepted two more from Flacco. His first, a deflected bomb that cornerback Logan Ryan knocked out of Breshad Perriman's hands, set Tennessee up on a 46-yard field that Mariota cashed in with a 16-yard scoring strike to Rishard Matthews with 1:04 left in the first quarter for a 10-3 lead.
"When I see the ball in the air," Byard said, "I'm going to get it."
Linebacker Wesley Woodyard notched a game-high 14 tackles, including a solo stop of Allen on a fourth-and-inches play at the Titans' 17 to start the fourth quarter. Baltimore could have taken a 35-yard field-goal try from Justin Tucker to pull within seven points, but head coach John Harbaugh opted to go for it, figuring his offense should be able to gain the required inch or two.
A replay review held up the call of John Hussey's officiating crew that spotted the ball about a half-yard shy, a call Harbaugh still contested afterward.
"As far as I'm concerned, he made the first down," Harbaugh said. "It was a great effort."
The Ravens' fifth-ranked rushing attack managed just 73 yards on 22 attempts, forcing Flacco to go it alone with a barrage of short passes. He completed 34 of 52 for 261 yards with two touchdowns and Byard's two interceptions.
Flacco tossed a 1-yard scoring pass to Mike Wallace with 46 seconds left that drew Baltimore within three points.
But Daren Bates recovered an onside kick, wrapping up Tennessee's third straight win and Baltimore's fifth loss in seven games.
"We're going to have to get on a run, win a string of games," Harbaugh said.
The Titans' other touchdown came on a 26-yard drive set up by a shanked 17-yard punt by Sam Koch. His 56-yarder on the previous play was nullified by an illegal formation. The 44-yard change of field position led to Henry's 1-yard touchdown run with 2:24 left in the first half that made it 16-6.
Ryan Succop started the scoring for Tennessee with a 48-yard field goal, his 56th consecutive conversion inside 50 yards. Tucker nailed field goals of 30 and 49 yards for the Ravens.
NOTES: Tennessee LG Quinton Spain (toe) was inactive and replaced by Brian Schwenke, who started his first game of the year. ... Other inactives for the Titans were QB Brandon Weeden, WR Darius Jennings, CB Kalan Reed, DB Curtis Riley, LB Nate Palmer and DE David King. ... Baltimore inactives were WR Michael Campanaro, RB Terrance West, S Chuck Clark, OLB Tim Williams, G Maurquice Shakir, TE Nick Boyle and DE Bronson Kaufusi.