SAN DIEGO — The Titans lost a shootout here on Sunday to the Chargers.
Unfortunately, they ended up shooting themselves in the foot a few too many times along the way as well. It was costly in a 43-35 loss at Qualcomm Stadium.
"It's so disappointing,'' Titans tackle Taylor Lewan said. "We let that one slip out, and it is so frustrating. It really (ticks) me off. But we are going to get back to the drawing board. … We have to get back to .500 and keep fighting. We have to get back on the train."
Quarterback Marcus Mariota had some special moments in front of a crowd packed with his supporters from Hawaii, Oregon and California, completing 27-of-43 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns for the Titans. But Mariota also threw two interceptions, and lost a fumble. Two of those turnovers were returned for San Diego defensive touchdowns.
"I can't let those things happen,'' Mariota said.
On defense, the Titans had all kinds of trouble stopping Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who ran for 196 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed 24-of-33 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.
Coupled with the turnovers, it was all just too much to overcome.
The Titans dropped to 4-5 with the loss.
"Gordon is very good, but we did a lot of things where we didn't fit right, and we didn't tackle well, so we made him that much more special,'' Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "And that is uncharacteristic for us.
"We have to learn from this. We can't dwell on this. We definitely had a poor performance today in a lot of areas, so we have to get better from this."
The Titans were slow out of the starting gate.
The Chargers jumped out to a 16-0 lead early, scoring first on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to tight end Antonio Gates.
After a 32-yard field goal by Josh Lambo made it 9-0, the Chargers scored again on a six-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to receiver Tyrell Williams.
The Titans cut the lead to 16-7 in the second quarter on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to receiver Rishard Matthews, who fought off a defender to make the catch.
After the Chargers extended the lead to 19-7 on a 23-yard field goal by Lambo, the Titans then closed the half with a bang.
After taking over at their own 25-yard line with 1:32 remaining before the half, the Titans drove the ball down the field in seven plays. Mariota connected with Matthews once again for a score, this time from seven yards, to cut the lead to 19-14 with just 14 seconds left before the half. A 29-yard completion from Mariota to rookie receiver Tajae Sharpe set up the score.
The Titans then took the lead 21-19 on their first possession of the second half on a 14-yard touchdown run by Mariota, which capped off a nine-play, 75-yard drive.
"This team has a lot heart, to come back," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "Everybody else thought it was doom and gloom, and this team did not think that."
The Chargers responded with a scoring drive of their own, however, and reclaimed the lead 26-21 on a one-yard run by Gordon.
Disaster struck on Tennessee's next drive, as Mariota lost the handle while running to his right on an option play. Chargers safety Dwight Lowery picked up the loose football and ran it back 43 yards for a touchdown, making it 33-21 Chargers with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
The Titans didn't fold. Mariota directed the Titans on a seven-play, 80-yard drive, and capped it off with an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker. A 48-yard completion from Mariota to receiver Kendall Wright put the Titans within striking distance.
Another field goal by Lambo, this one from 36 yards out with 6:05 left, made it 36-28.
When the Titans got the ball back, Mariota was intercepted by Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers, who returned it 33 yards for a touchdown to make it 43-28. Wright took the blame for that one after the game.
"I have to come downhill more when the ball is in the air,'' Wright said. "I just have to fix it and make sure I don't do it again."
A one-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray made it 43-35 with 2:45 remaining, but the Titans never got the ball back.
The Titans face the Packers next Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
"I am going to give them credit,'' Mularkey said of the Chargers. "They came right out and scored on their first three possessions and ran the ball very effectively. Every time we came back and thought we had a chance they came right back, too, so that is a credit to their guys.
"But you can't turn the ball over, and you certainly can't turn the ball over for scores. That makes it next to impossible to win in this league. Losing is deflating, but the way you lose is frustrating."
The Tennessee Titans take on the San Diego Chargers in Week 9 action at Qualcomm Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)