NASHVILLE, Tenn. —A week ago, the Titans were flying high following an emotional win in New Orleans.
On Sunday at Nissan Stadium, the mood was much different following a 27-10 loss to the Panthers, when the good vibes came crashing down.
"Obviously we've had two different locker rooms after games in the two weeks I've been in this position and I know the one I'd rather be in,'' said Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey, who replaced Ken Whisenhunt on November 3. "So we've got to get over the taste and the feeling quickly to get prepared to play a team that is improved."
The Titans face the Jaguars on Thursday, so there's no time to sulk. The loss leaves the team in desperate need of a quick rebound. It also left players frustrated.
After an overtime win in New Orleans, the Titans finally had some momentum.
And for a half, the Titans and Panthers duked it out -- it was 14-10 at the break.
But in the second half, the Titans couldn't get anything going, and the Panthers took control. The Titans picked up just three first downs in the second half, as the Panthers pulled away.
The Titans dropped to 2-7 with the loss, while the Panthers improved to 9-0. The Titans have now lost 10 straight games at Nissan Stadium dating back to last season.
"We keep saying the same thing, 'Learn from it, learn from it, learn from it,'" Titans tackle Byron Bell said. "But we keep doing the same thing over and over and over, it's kind of like insanity. We have to stop being insane and stop beating ourselves.
"It's tough, man. When you win games like that (in New Orleans), it is great. But in the National Football League you have to move on and put it behind us."
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota competed 16-of-24 passes for 185 yards and an interception in the contest. But a week after throwing four touchdowns against the Saints, his success was limited, especially in the second half, when drives stalled.
The Titans made mistakes, with dropped passes and mishandled snaps among them. It all added up to no points in the final 30 minutes. The Titans converted just 5-of-12 third down opportunities in the game, including 1-of-5 in the second half.
"We just didn't do a good job of executing on third down and that starts with me,'' Mariota said. "I've got to do a better job of helping those guys out in terms of protection and getting the ball out and allowing guys to make plays.
"We knew it would be a tough battle. For us, I think we left a lot of points out there."
While the Titans stalled on offense, they battled on defense.
But the Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton did enough. Newton was 21-of-26 for 217 yards and touchdown in the contest. The Titans sacked him five times, but he also made his way into the end zone on a one-yard touchdown run.
The Titans had trouble stopping the Panthers, and Newton, early. The Panthers scored in their game-opening drive on a 16-yard touchdown run by running back Jonathan Stewart to make it 7-0.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Carolina Panthers Week 10 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
After the Titans answered back with a touchdown drive of their own, which ended with an electrifying 25-yard touchdown run by Dexter McCluster, the Panthers answered back. Newton found tight end Ed Dickson open for a one-yard touchdown to make it 14-7. Newton completed his first 11 passes in the contest as Carolina built an early lead.
A 45-yard field goal by Titans kicker Ryan Succop made it 14-10 with 7:45 left before halftime.
Neither team could do much with the football in the third quarter, when the Panthers scored the only points of the quarter on a 48-yard field goal by kicker Graham Gano to make it 17-10. The Panthers made it 20-10 with 9:06 left in the contest on a 19-yard field goal by Gano.
The Panthers made it 27-10 late in the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown run by Newton.
Mularkey credited the Panthers afterward, but he acknowledged the Titans did plenty of things that weren't "pretty."
"I can say this: That's a good football team we went up against today. There's reasons why they are where they're at, with their record and how they finished last year,'' Mularkey said.
"I give them credit. They are just efficient. It is not going to be 500 yards offense and 40 points. It's possess the football, wear you down eventually…That is like what we would like to evolve in to… But we have to learn from these things."
The Titans travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars on Thursday night.
They'll need to put Sunday's loss behind them in a hurry.
"We went out there and gave it our all, and we're going to keep our heads up,'' linebacker Avery Williamson said. "We're not going to call it a setback at all. We have to get ready for this next game."