OAKLAND, Calif. — The Titans offense exploded out of the Black Hole here Saturday night, scoring points on their first four possessions in an impressive display of balance.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota was sharp, the running game was stout, and several players emerged with big plays in Saturday night's 27-14 win over the Raiders.
The defense once again struggled out of the gate, however, before eventually settling down and making some big plays of their own.
Overall, preseason game No.3 has to go down as a success.
"We have one goal, to score every time we get the ball,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "We did a lot of good things. A lot of guys did a lot of good things. Our line did a great job in there. We got a really good tempo going. I like the way the guys are playing."
In a half of action, Mariota completed 9-of-16 passes for 170 yards, with a passer rating of 93.2.
In three preseason games, he's now 23-of-31 for 319 yards, with a 104.1 passer rating.
Mariota looked regular season ready on Saturday night. He guided the Titans to a six-play, 81-yard scoring drive on the team's first possession, which was capped off by a DeMarco Murray one-yard touchdown run. A 60-yard completion from Mariota to rookie Tajae Sharpe was the highlight of that drive. It put the ball inside the Oakland five.
"I was trying to get six,'' Sharpe said with a smile. "But I came up a little bit short."
The Titans scored a field goal on their next drive, as Mariota connected with veteran receiver Andre Johnson three times to lead the team into Ryan Succop's range. A Mariota-to-Harry Douglas lateral during a 17-yard run was the highlight of another drive that ended with a field goal.
The Titans took the battering ram approach with rookie running back Derrick Henry on their final drive of the first half. Henry punched one in to make it 20-14 at the half, and the Titans rested most of their starters in the second half.
Murray had 40 yards on eight carries in the first half, while Henry finished the night with 49 yards on 12 carries, including a three-yard touchdown run.
"It's very important,'" Mariota said of the balanced attack. "If we're able to do that and be versatile, it's tough for defenses to key on one thing."
Sharpe had the biggest gainer of the night, but Johnson caught three passes for 65 yards in the first half.
"You can't be one-dimensional and I think we have a great mix, and I think it showed,'' Johnson said.
The Titans made some plays on defense, but the first unit wasn't happy with the result of Oakland's first possession on offense.
For the third week in a row, it ended with a touchdown, this time on a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Carr to running back DeAndre Washington.
The Raiders added another score in the first half when Carr connected with receiver Amari Cooper for a 29-yard touchdown.
"We have to do a better job,'' Mularkey said. "We're giving up some big plays, and I know our guys are capable of stopping them. We have to make the big plays."
Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who had a sack and was especially disruptive early, said the team needs to tighten things up early.
"It's something that we've still been working on,'' Casey said. "We have to get off to faster starts. Once we come off and understand what we've done wrong, we can come back real fast and clean up our mistakes. The thing is, we're trying to get the game started off the way we want to. But we're going to stick together. We don't play any blame games. If we get beat up front, or our DBs get beat on the back end, we're going to come together and figure out as a unit. We're going to clean it up together and make things happen."
The Titans stopped the Raiders on fourth down inside the 10-yard line near the end of the half, and in the second half got a defensive score when linebacker Sean Spence leveled Washington, and fellow linebacker David Bass picked it up and ran it back for a 47-yard score.
Later, cornerbacks Kalan Reed and Cody Riggs hauled in interceptions, ending Oakland drives.
The Titans wrap up the preseason on Thursday night in Miami.
"I think each week we've stepped it up and done some good things,'' Murray said. "It's about time for things to get a lot more serious, but I definitely think we are headed in the right direction."
The Tennessee Titans battle the Raiders in Week 3 of the 2016 preseason in Oakland. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)