NASHVILLE – At the season's halfway point, the Titans don't look half bad.
On Sunday, the Titans put forth an inspiring effort on defense and just enough offense to beat the Chicago Bears 24-17 before 13,871 fans at Nissan Stadium.
It snapped a two-game losing streak, and in the process put the team back on track.
"I think that we were at a crossroads here of where we were going with our season," Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. "Coming off the two losses, coming back home, I'm proud of the way the guys played. Proud of the way they prepared, and then now the challenge is to come back in there tomorrow and forget about this one and take care of our bodies. The team that gets healthy the quickest and obviously prepares in a short amount of time that we have, is going to have an advantage in the football game (coming up)."
The Titans are 6-2 at the midway point of the season, and alone atop the AFC South. It marks the sixth time in the Titans era (since 1999) and the first time in 12 years that they have won at least six of their first eight games after previously doing so in 1999 (6-2), 2000 (7-1), 2003 (6-2), 2007 (6-2) and 2008 (8-0).
A year ago, the Titans were 4-4 at the midway point of the season.
Next up is an AFC South showdown against the Indianapolis Colts (5-3) on Thursday night at Nissan Stadium.
"We get to enjoy this one tonight but get ourselves recovered and ready to go, have a big one, division game at home on Thursday Night Football, so we're excited for that, excited for the opportunity," Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "(We're) 6-2, but at this point we have to look forward and we're really 0-0 going into the second half of the season. We have done some good things, we need to clean up some things, offensively, just be cleaner, make some plays and when the opportunities present themselves, but excited about the toughness we have, both mentally and physically, and being able to find a way to win."
Tannehill completed 10-of-21 for 158 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, with a 104.9 rating.
Titans running back Derrick Henry ran for 68 yards on 21 carries.
Titans receiver A.J. Brown caught four passes for 101 yards, and that included a 40-yard touchdown catch.
Thanks to some improved play on defense, it all added up to a win. The Titans sacked Bears quarterback Nick Foles three times, and forced a pair of turnovers with a swarming defense.
While the Titans allowed a pair of late scores, they played solid on defense throughout, holding the Bears without a point in the first half while forcing Chicago to go 0-for-7 on third down. The Bears were just 2-of-15 on third down in the contest. The Titans entered the contest last in the NFL in third down defense.
"We came out with energy at the start of the game," said Titans linebacker Jayon Brown, who led the team with 10 tackles and also had a sack and a forced fumble. "I believe we didn't (allow) a point until late in the game. ... I'm proud of the way we played. I say we gave up too many points, my personal opinion, but we won, and we get back to the field and make a few corrections. We've got a quick turnaround to get back on the Colts for this week."
The Titans took a 3-0 lead on a 40-yard field goal by kicker Stephen Gostkowski in the first quarter, capping a drive highlighted by a 38-yard catch by Brown with points.
In the second quarter, Tannehill connected with Brown for another big play, this one a 40-yard touchdown that finished off a 12-play, 91-yard drive. Brown fought his way into the end zone with Bears defensive back Buster Skrine on his back as he stretched the football over the goal line.
Then the defense rose up and made a big play, as defensive back Desmond King scooped up a fumble caused by defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown to give the Titans a 17-0 lead in the third quarter. The Titans just acquired King in a trade with the Chargers this week.
"Scoring that touchdown is what you expect," King said. "Those are expectations you have to live up to. I know my ability and what I can do. Just to come here and put that to use and contribute to the team's success is what it's really about."
After Simmons nearly had an interception in the fourth quarter, the Bears got on the scoreboard with a short field goal from kicker Cairo Santos to make it 17-3 with 12:30 remaining.
But the Titans responded with a long scoring drive and they stretched their lead to 24-3 on a two-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to tight end Jonnu Smith with 8:10 left.
The Bears added a pair of late touchdowns in the final five minutes -- a six-yard touchdown pass from Foles to running back Ryan Nall, and an eight-yard touchdown pass from Foles to tight end Jimmy Graham -- to make it 24-17, but this was a game controlled, and won, by the Titans.
Now, the Colts are on tap.
"An in-conference opponent in our division," Smith said. "So, we just have to do what we have to do. They know us and we know them, so it's going to be a battle. We are going to get prepared. It's a short week so we have to get our body, our minds right and get the win."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Chicago Bears in Week 9 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)