NASHVILLE – The Titans avoided falling into a Black Hole on Sunday against the Raiders.
After their 24-22 gut-check win at Nissan Stadium, there was reason to celebrate.
Now, the plan is to keep the momentum going.
"I loved the way they competed, and fought," Titans head coach Mike Vrabel of his players. "Give the Raiders a lot of credit, but I have to give our guys a lot of credit."
It wasn't easy, and it came down to a few big plays at the end.
By winning, the Titans (1-2) snapped an early two-game losing streak as they head to Indianapolis (1-1-1) for a big AFC South game next Sunday.
"I think it will help everybody," Vrabel said. "Losing sucks, especially when you are used to winning, when you have high expectations. I am excited for the players – I really am. I know that they probably deserved one earlier in the season and we didn't end up with it. But you only get what you fight for in this league and I thought they fought for it, and I am happy for them."
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 14-of-17 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and the Titans led 24-10 at the break.
Things got tense late, though, as the Titans failed to score in the second half.
But the defense held the Raiders to field goals on two drives that reached their red zone, and they got some big stops, and a big turnover, down the stretch.
Safety Kevin Byard had a key interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter to end a Raiders drive. Then after a late score by the Raiders, the Titans stopped a two-point conversion try with 1:14 left as linebacker Dylan Cole and Byard each got a hand on the football to break up a Derek Carr pass intended for tight end Darren Waller.
And, the Titans held on to win.
"To end the game, and get a W at home, it feels great," Byard said. "That feeling in the locker room is something we want to continue to feel, and keep building on that."
Tight end Austin Hooper recovered an onsides kick and the Titans held on.
"It's huge (to win)," said Tannehill, who completed 19-of-27 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown, along with interception, in the contest. "It was obviously not the way we saw the first two weeks going, but I'm proud of the way we responded today. We played with an attitude, played with an edge, and found a way to win."
Running back Derrick Henry racked up 143 all-purpose yards in the contest – 85 rushing yards and 58 receiving yards (on five catches). Henry also scored on a one-yard touchdown run.
Receiver Robert Woods had four catches and 85 receiving yards.
"It's hard to win in this league," Henry said. "I'm happy that I was able to contribute to a great team win."
The Titans came out red-hot on offense, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions.
The Titans took a 7-0 lead early on a beautiful, 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game. Tannehill capped it off with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Geoff Swaim.
The Raiders cut the lead to 7-3 on a 21-yard field goal by kicker Daniel Carlson.
But the Titans punched again early, putting together another nice drive and capping it off with a one-yard touchdown run by Henry to make it 14-3 with 14:25 left in the second quarter. A 41-yard catch by Woods – the team's longest offensive play to date on the season – set the drive in motion, and a tough catch by rookie receiver Treylon Burks put the ball at the one.
The Raiders answered with a scoring drive of their own, and they capped it off with a five-yard touchdown pass from Carr to receiver Davante Adams.
The Titans kept swinging, and they extended their lead to 21-10 on an eight-play, 79-yard drive that was capped of with a one-yard sneak by Tannehill. A 24-yard run by Henry put the Titans on the one-yard line.
A 48-yard field goal by kicker Randy Bullock on the final play of the first half gave the Titans a 24-10 lead at the half.
The Raiders put together a nice drive at the start of the second half, but the Titans held them to a 32-yard field goal, and they led 24-13 midway through the third quarter.
Byard's interception of a Carr pass in the end zone delayed the drama until late. The Raiders got another field goal from kicker Daniel Carlson with 3:29 left to make it 24-16 and the Raiders made it really interesting late when Carr connected with Mack Hollins for a nine-yard touchdown with just 1:14 left.
Then came the unsuccessful two-point try.
"Getting the first win, getting that off your back, now we just have to keep this momentum going," center Ben Jones said. "Winning is contagious and we hope we all catch it this week."