CHICAGO —** As the final second ticked off the clock here on Sunday, plenty went through the minds of the Tennessee Titans. There was excitement, and there was relief.
"What did I think?,'' linebacker Derrick Morgan said with a smile. "I thought, 'Thank God.' I was thanking God for the victory, really. We have been in those positions in the past and come out on the wrong side a lot of times. To finish with a win, that's all that matters. So it felt good."
The Titans took care of business here in a 27-21 win over the Chicago Bears.
Yes, they made it more interesting than they would've liked, but the end result was positive.
"It was quite a ride,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "Every one of these games is like a whitewater (ride). It was quite a ride and we found a way to win. We need some of those games. I've been on the other end of a lot of those games here, and we needed one of those games to go our way."
Now, the Titans get a chance to ease back for a week before things get serious.
Then, things could get very interesting.
With Sunday's win, the Titans improved to 6-6 and moved into second place in the AFC South behind the Houston Texans, who lost to San Diego on Sunday to drop to 6-5. The Colts are 5-6.
The Titans have a bye next Sunday. They'll return to action on December 11 against the Denver Broncos at Nissan Stadium. With a quarter of the season left, the Titans are alive and in the hunt for the division title, and a playoff spot.
"The feeling is excitement,'' tight end Delanie Walker said. "At the end of the day, it's football. No one said it is going to always be pretty. It was a tough-fought game … but we conquered and all I ask for is to get a W.
"Now, this is the fourth quarter (of the season). Ultimately we want to win out, win all four games. That is the mindset we have. But we are going to have to be on point."
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota led the way again on Sunday. Mariota completed 15-of-23 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, and helped the team jump out to a 27-7 lead in the second half.
Mariota has now thrown at least two touchdown passes in eight consecutive games. He's now the third player in franchise history with 25 touchdowns in a season, and the first since Warren Moon did it in 1990. Mariota now has 25 touchdown passes on the season vs. just eight interceptions.
"We are right in the thick of it,'' Mariota said of the team's mindset, and standing "Our mentality can't change. We have to continue to take it one game at a time, and find ways to improve. … You want an opportunity this time of year to get a chance to make a run at a division title and maybe make a run at the playoffs, and that is all you can really ask for."
The Titans went on a heck of a whitewater ride here on Sunday, as Mularkey described it. After a nice start, they nearly got tossed out of the raft at the end.
The Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Barkley to tight end Daniel Brown.
The Titans answered back on their next possession, however, with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with an 11-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry. It was Henry's second career touchdown, and he picked up a key block from Walker on his way to the end zone.
Walker got into the end zone himself on Tennessee's next drive. His four-yard touchdown catch from Mariota capped off an eight-play, 64-yard drive and gave the Titans a 14-7 lead with 9:11 left in the second quarter.
The Titans extended their lead to 21-7 late in the second quarter on a beautiful 29-yard touchdown catch by receiver Rishard Matthews, who got behind the defense and caught the ball with his body in flight.
A 19-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop made it 24-7 in the third quarter. Succop added a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to make it 27-7 with 13:45 remaining. It looked like the Titans might cruise to a win, but things got bumpy.
After a shaky start on defense, the Titans made some plays that ultimately proved to be game-savers. One of the biggest was an interception by linebacker Wesley Woodyard at the 11-yard line, which halted a Chicago drive in the first half.
In the third quarter, safety Da'Norris Searcy picked off Barkley in the end zone on a third down play.
But the Bears still managed to make things interesting - or downright scary - late.
An eight-yard touchdown pass from Barkley to Marquess Wilson made it 27-14 with 8:23 remaining. Barkley then connected with Deonte Thompson for a six-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-21 with 3:06 left.
The Bears ended up driving the field and had in first-and-goal at the Tennessee 7-yard line in the closing moments, but they couldn't score. A fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and the Titans celebrated.
"Nothing matters right now but the fact we got the win, and we are in the position we want to be in,'' Titans rookie safety Kevin Byard said. "It is hard to win in this league, and in the NFL a "W" is a "W."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Chicago Bears in Week 12 action at Soldier Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)