NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** There were plenty of moments of celebration, and nearly elation. During a good portion of Sunday's home opener against the Colts, the Titans looked like a team in control.
But as the final seconds ticked off the Nissan Stadium clock, the Titans were left kicking themselves. They'd let another one slip away against their AFC South rivals.
"It is like getting punched in the jaw, getting sucker punched. We were winning the fight, and then we got punched,'' tight end Delanie Walker said. "But hey, you can fight all you want. If you lose the fight, you lose the fight, and we lost the fight, so we're not happy. I'm not happy.
"This team has the fight, we have the guys in here to make plays. We knew that. But you have to finish the fight. I don't go with no moral victories. You have to win the game and we didn't."
The Colts beat the Titans 35-33 in a game that featured plenty of momentum swings.
The Titans held a 27-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Colts scored 21 straight points to take 35-27 lead with 2:51 remaining.
The Titans scored on a one-yard touchdown run by fullback Jalston Fowler with 47 seconds remaining and had a chance to tie the game, but the two-point try – another run by Fowler -- was stuffed.
It was the eighth straight win for the Colts in the series, and the 13th in the last 14 games against the Titans.
"Obviously, it is extremely disappointing,'' Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "There is not much to say, except we didn't make the plays we needed to make to win that game. I think it is pretty evident that we are getting better, we are learning. We just have to learn from this and continue to grow.
"(The players) are hurting. I feel awful because it was really a great crowd today, a great atmosphere. We just have to finish these games. This team never quit. We got the lead and we lost it, and that hurts, that really hurts. But we fought back. We showed a lot of heart with our football team. We understand we came up short. But we'll work to get better."
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 27-of-44 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns in the contest, and posted a passer rating of 84.2. His passing yardage total set a franchise record for rookie quarterbacks.
With two touchdown passes, Mariota tied Mark Rypien for the most touchdown passes (8) in his first three NFL starts.
Afterward, though, he was forced to try and recall the last time he'd lost two consecutive games. He couldn't immediately recall when asked. The Titans are now 1-2 after back-to-back losses to the Browns and Colts after a season-opening win at Tampa Bay.
"It's tough, but we'll learn from it,'' Mariota said. "I'm proud of the guys in the locker room for fighting all the way through but it's one of those things. We had a chance to finish it, but you know, we've just got to learn from it and get better."
After the Titans built a 13-point lead in the third quarter, the Colts scored 21 straight points -- including 14 in a span of 56 seconds -- in the fourth quarter to erase the deficit.
It was a tough ending for the Titans, who scored 27 straight points after falling behind 14-0 early.
Left tackle Taylor Lewan dismissed talk about it being a deflating loss, however. He focused on the positives.
"I don't want to say deflating, because that is a horribly negative way to look at things,'' Lewan said. "I think there's a lot of hope that came out of this. We are a good team, and we can play with anybody, and I think we showed that today. Obviously you want to win. You want to put Ws on the board and it is hard to not win this one and it sucks and it hurts and it definitely stings more than others as to how close it was.
"But these guys fought their (butt) off today and to say it is deflating is an injustice to the way these guys played. Because we didn't come out and just get rolled over. It sucks and it hurts but there is so much hope because we understand we can play with anybody."
The Colts took an early 7-0 lead when running back Frank Gore scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 5:42 remaining in the first quarter.
The Colts made it 14-0 when safety Dwight Lowery caught a ball thrown by Mariota out of mid-air and raced 69 yards for a touchdown. The play was ruled an interception after Colts defensive back Josh Thomas hit Walker and dislodged the ball after Walker initially appeared to catch the pass thrown by the rookie quarterback.
A pair of early Titans drives ended because of dropped passes, and the Titans also failed on other opportunities. In the second quarter, a 13-yard touchdown run was called back because of a holding penalty by right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi.
The Titans got on the board on a 38-yard field goal from kicker Ryan Succop to make it 14-3. Then, just before halftime, the Titans scored on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to receiver Kendall Wright, which made it 14-10.
The Titans then put together a big third quarter.
Antonio Andrews gave the Titans their first lead with an eight-yard touchdown run to make it 17-14. Then Mariota connected with rookie Dorial Green-Beckham on a three-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-14. A 21-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop made it 27-14 with 3:04 left in the third quarter.
The Colts didn't fold, however. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck led a 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter that was capped off with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett with 6:49 remaining in the game to make it 27-21.
On Tennessee's next possession, Mariota was intercepted again by Lowery, who returned the ball to the 11. On the next play, Luck connected with receiver Donte Moncrief for an 11-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-27 with 5:53 remaining.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in their Week 3 home opener at Nissan Stadium (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
After a three-and-out by the Titans, the Colts drove for another score. Gore capped off a five-play, 69-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run to make it 35-27 Colts with 2:51 remaining.
The Titans couldn't catch all the way up.
"It's very disappointed to say the least,'' Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "We had them, we had them. We had this game, in my opinion. Andrew Luck did a good job willing his team to get back in the game and they finally pulled it off at the end. We have to finish."
The Titans have a bye next Sunday before returning to Nissan Stadium to face the Bills.
"That is really the hard thing, we have to wait two weeks before we play another game. We can't go out there and redeem ourselves,'' Wright said. "But this is a different team. We can put it together and I think it is going to happen sooner than anyone expects. When we get a chance to put someone away, we have to put them away."