NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans know everything they did wrong on their way to an embarrassing performance.
It’s good they know what they have to correct, but the Titans did nothing to improve the reputation of a franchise not even two seasons removed from the NFL’s worst record.
Now their challenge is quickly fixing mistakes from a 40-17 loss to Pittsburgh .
Maybe then, the Titans will be ready the next time they have an opportunity to prove they belong on the league’s big stage as they chase the AFC South title with six games left.
“I think that was good for our team last night, to be in that environment against a team that’s a perennial playoff team,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Friday. “To know that we can play with them and we can beat them in their place if we don’t turn the ball over four times and make the plays that are there when they’re there.”
Marcus Mariota had the worst game of his young career with four interceptions by a quarterback who had never been picked off more than twice in any game. Mariota now has more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (8) this season.
Mularkey blamed the first pick on his quarterback with Mariota’s second pass sailing over Rishard Matthews’ head to a defender. On the second, Mularkey said rookie receiver Corey Davis could’ve helped Mariota out by taking a better angle at the ball.
Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson forced a fumble by Antonio Brown that the Steelers recovered late in the first half, and Mularkey noted linebacker Wesley Woodyard just missed what might’ve been an interception off Le’Veon Bell’s shoulder. Tight end Delanie Walker dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone four days after Matthews dropped a would-be touchdown.
The Steelers sacked Mariota five times , bringing the total to nine sacks allowed over the past two games. The Titans also had nine penalties for 65 yards, their worst performance since a 16-10 loss Oct. 8 at Miami.
Even with all the sloppy play, the Titans rallied from a 10-point deficit and pulled within 23-17 with 5:34 left in the third quarter before the Steelers reeled off 17 unanswered points.
“We felt like we had a chance in that environment,” Mularkey said. “Kept coming back, especially after a slow start, both sides really didn’t start off the way we wanted to. Being down 10-0, I’ve been on a lot of teams that that would have been enough to say, ‘That’s it.’ Our guys didn’t do that. They came back and made it a game all the way through until about five minutes to go in that third quarter.”
The Titans (6-4) now trail Jacksonville (6-3) in the AFC South. Tennessee wraps up the regular season hosting the Jaguars, who play winless Cleveland on Sunday.
Their bigger challenge is the Titans still have beaten only two teams with winning records. Their next four opponents have a combined record of 11-27, so Tennessee can only improve its record if not the resume. The Titans will visit Indianapolis on Nov. 26 where the Titans still are looking for their first win in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Wide receiver Eric Decker, who caught all three passes thrown to him, said the corrections are up to the players and coaches.
“We’ll figure that out,” Decker said. “We’ll show you guys the results.”
Notes: Mularkey said S Kevin Byard hurt a shoulder and LB Brian Orakpo got leg whipped. The coach expects both to be OK and said he would know more Monday.
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