NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Win, and they're in.
Well, not yet.
But it's getting close.
On Saturday, the Titans did their part once again with a 25-16 win over the Washington Redskins. It was a nail-biter for the Titans and their fans, as they had to rally to get it.
The win gave the Titans (9-6) their fourth straight victory. Now, the team needs a loss by the Steelers (who face the Saints tomorrow) to cause the Titans vs. Colts game to be a win-and-in playoff scenario next Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
"We've just taken it one game at a time, and that's all we can do," said Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler, who sealed the game with an interception return for a touchdown on the game's final play. "We've gotten the job done so far, but there's work to do. We know our work is not finished."
With the win, the Titans guaranteed themselves a winning record for the third straight season. It's the first time that's happened in the "Titans era."
Titans safety Kevin Byard said the team won't let up.
"There's no time to relax right now," Byard said. "I feel like the playoffs started for us a while back, and every single week we have to flush the game before and keep it moving. It's a survive-and-advance mentality, and we're surviving now and playing hard."
The Titans lost quarterback Marcus Mariota to an injury late in the first half. Mariota suffered a stinger, and did not return.
Back-up quarterback Blaine Gabbert stepped in and proved to be a hero.
Gabbert guided a seven-play, 75 yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt to give the Titans a 19-16 lead with 4:30 left. Running back Derrick Henry was big on the go-ahead drive, ripping off 30 yards of runs to put the Titans inside the Redskins' five.
Byard made a critical interception with 1:17 left, before Butler sealed the game with a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown as time expired.
"I'm really proud of (Blaine)," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Gabbert. "I'm really proud of the entire team because they stuck together."
The Titans announced Mariota's injury as a stinger. Mariota was injured after being sacked on a first-and-10 play from the Redskins 14. Trainers examined Mariota on the field, and he headed to the locker room prior to the half.
Mariota completed 10-of-13 passes for 110 yards before leaving the contest.
Gabbert finished the contest 7-of-11 for 101 yards and a touchdown, with a 123.7 rating.
"Blaine stepped up," Henry, who ran for 84 yards and a touchdown, said of Gabbert. "He was very smooth. Blaine has that attitude, and he has that killer instinct. Nothing scares him – he doesn't shy away from anything. He goes out there like he's the starter. When one man goes down, you have to step up and that's what he did."
Gabbert, who has completed 43-of-72 passes (59.7 percent) for 461 yards with an 80.3 rating this season, said he was happy to do his part.
"It was, "Just go win the game," Gabbert said of his mindset when he entered the contest. "It was a fun win, and it's always fun to win big games, and just go out there and play with the guys. You work hard day in and day out, and sometimes you don't get the chance to play.
"So whenever I am out there I just try to make the most of the opportunity and have fun. I'm just glad we were able to pull it out and win the game."
After the Redskins took a 3-0 lead on their opening possession on a 50-yard field goal by kicker Dustin Hopkins, the Titans took an early 6-3 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Henry, which capped an 11-play, 69-yard drive that included a big third down run by Mariota, and completions to Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor.
The Redskins reclaimed the lead on seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Johnson to receiver Michael Floyd, which made it 10-6 with 4:28 left in the second quarter before the Titans cut the lead to 10-9 at the end of the first half on a 42-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop.
After the Redskins stretched the lead back to 13-9 with 4:57 left in the third quarter on another field goal by Hopkins, the Titans answered back with a 60-yard drive, and another Succop field goal, to make it 13-12 with 14:55 left in the contest. The Redskins added another field goal to make it 16-12 with 8:09 left.
Then came the big drive, which gave the Titans the lead.
Now, the Titans will sit back and find out just how big next Sunday's game against the Colts will be at Nissan Stadium.
"That's our mentality -- survive and advance," Taylor said. "You know, this is our playoffs right here. Lose and you go home. So we are taking it one game at a time.
"It is going to be fun celebrating this win tonight. Unfortunately, we have to put it behind us and get ready for the Colts."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Washington Redskins in Week 16 of the 2018 season on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
The Tennessee Titans prepare to take on the Washington Redskins in Week 16 of the 2018 season on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)