NASHVILLE, Tenn. —The Titans have suffered one gut-wrenching loss after another this season, but Sunday's finish against the Raiders topped them all on the pain meter.
"It was a heartbreaker,'' receiver Kendall Wright said. "Yeah, this one hurts a lot."
The Titans lost 24-21 to the Raiders by allowing a touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Carr to receiver Seth Roberts with 1:21 left.
It came just a few minutes after the Titans had taken the lead on a Marcus Mariota touchdown pass, and just seconds after the Titans thought they'd gotten a fourth down stop, only to realize they'd been called for a penalty.
"I never thought we'd won the game,'' tackle Byron Bell said. "The game is not over until it's over, until the clock runs out. But I thought we were going to win it. It's hard. It's tough, man."
Heading into Sunday's game, the Titans had lost four games by six points or less, including losses by one (Bills, 14-13), two (Colts, 35-33), three (Falcons, 10-7) and six points (Jaguars, 19-13).
The Titans dropped to 2-9 on Sunday when the Raiders rallied for the three-point win before a rain-drenched crowd at Nissan Stadium.
Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said he's sickened by the fact the team can't get over the hump. He also feels bad for interim coach Mike Mularkey.
"Every week it is the same story -- we lose the game in the last three minutes,'' Woodyard said. "We have to find a way to pull it out. I feel bad for coach Mularkey, that we can't reward him by winning. He has been a great coach, having us fight every week, but we can't reward him because we can't finish at the end.
"We have to find a way to come together as a complete team and win. We have to be able to find a way. … It is going to click one day, but it hasn't clicked (yet)."
The Raiders scored with just 1:21 left to reclaim the lead after it appeared the Titans had gotten a fourth down stop. But cornerback B.W. Webb was called for defensive holding away from where Carr's pass was thrown. It was a penalty neither Webb nor Mularkey agreed with.
"Personally, I thought it was a terrible call,'' Webb said.
The Titans took the lead 21-17 on a one-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to fullback Jalston Fowler with 4:41 left.
"It's very frustrating. I mean, you know we have found ways to lose," Mularkey said. "We thought we finally found a way to win, to come back, put the drive together, put the ball in our defense's hands. They do, they hold up. We should get the ball back. We felt like we had overcome something we haven't and … the one call is the call. It changes the game, changes the outcome of the game. It's frustrating, very frustrating."
Mariota completed 17-of-37 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns in the game, but he threw two interceptions, including one that ended it in the game's final minute. Wright took the blame for the final interception after the game, indicating he'd been knocked off his route.
But it was a day when the Titans, despite their resilience, failed on many other opportunities to take control of the game.
Mariota was sacked to take the offense out of field goal range early, and he also threw another interception early to kill a drive. On defense, the Titans allowed Carr to throw for 330 yards and three touchdowns. The Titans failed to make some plays on Oakland receivers when they had defenders around the football.
"We had another opportunity to win a game and we fell short today,'' Mariota said. "I don't think there's a problem that can't be solved. It's just finding ways, obviously to score more points, out our defense in better situations. Those things kind of lie on me."
The Titans jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to tight end Craig Stevens, whose juggling catch capped off a 5-play, 88-yard drive. Stevens managed to haul in the pass while being defended by a pair of Raiders near the goal line. The extra point was blocked, however.
The Raiders took a 10-6 lead by halftime, however, as Carr hit receiver Michael Crabtree with a seven-yard touchdown pass, and then added three more points on a 24-yard field goal by kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
The Raiders stretched the lead to 17-6 on their first possession of the second half on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Roberts, who escaped a tackle from cornerback Perrish Cox and made his way into the end zone.
The Titans battled back in the third quarter.
Mariota connected with receiver Harry Douglas on a 13-yard touchdown pass, and then found receiver Dorial Green-Beckham open on the two-point conversion to make it 17-14.
Then came the dramatic ending.
Bell said everyone needs to keep the faith. On a dreary day, he vowed brighter days are ahead.
"Everything in life is a process, and this is a process we have to go through. Everything is going to come out beautiful,'' Bell said. "A butterfly don't just happen. It has to go through a process and has to get in a cocoon and then come out beautiful.
"That's the way anything happens in life. You don't get born and then become an adult. When you fail a test in college, you have to go back to the drawing board and learn from the mistakes and figure out why you failed. We have to figure it out, but eventually it's going to be beautiful. Nashville is going to one day be a city where people come to and say, "Damn, we don't want to play the (expletive) Titans. But we have to get the process rolling."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Oakland Raiders Week 12 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)