NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Strong praise of the Tennessee Titans' locker room has rung a bit hollow in 2015. And Mike Mularkey has said a lot of the same things Ken Whisenhunt did about the Titans working hard and supporting each other even after rough results.
Which is lovely but begs the question: Why is such a resilient group not finding more wins?
Tennessee on Sunday got a significant one, 42-39, against Jacksonville.
The victory doesn't mean the Titans have a great roster. They don’t. But it certainly did show why Mularkey has such affection for this team. It also showed the Titans don’t have to play perfectly to get a good result.
“We’ve talked about finding a way to win and we’ve found a way, and different ways this week, to win the game,” said Mularkey, interim coach since Nov. 3. “I was very proud of how they stuck together on that sideline. They’re an amazing group to coach.”
The Titans have regularly expressed a similar affection for Mularkey. He said some made it clear it was important for Mularkey to get a win over the Jaguars, a team he led to a 2-14 record in a one-year stint as their head coach in 2012.
“I told them [Saturday] night, no, it was important to win for all of us in the room, the coaching staff and the players, because of how hard we work,” Mularkey said. “That’s why I want to win. That’s why this is so much better of a feel, because I know how important it was to all those guys in that room.”
Marcus Mariota's big day keyed the victory.
“For us to get a win for him at home against one of his former teams, it’s good and it’s rewarding," said Mariota, who accounted for 380 combined yards of offense and four touchdowns. "I can’t say enough about what these guys have done, and staying the course, and trusting the process that these coaches have put in. It’s only one game, but it means a lot to us. Hopefully we can build of it for the rest of the year.”
The offense found a way on a day the Titans, a defensive football team, had a terrible defensive day. The Titans allowed the Jaguars to convert 10 of 14 third downs, saw second-year quarterback Blake Bortles throw five touchdowns, permitted 10 catches for 153 yards and three scores by receiver Allen Robinson and let the Jaguars find just their second rushing touchdown of the season.
“Not everything is going to go our way,” outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “Those guys on the other side made a lot of plays. We tried our best, but they made more plays than us.”
But on the Jaguars’ last chance, the Titans got a fourth-down sack of Bortles from safety DaNorris Searcy and defensive tackle Karl Klug.
“We finally found a way to stop them and get off the field and close the game out,” Orakpo said. “So it was huge. It’s closing these games out, it’s something we’ve struggled with all year long.”
The offense has let the defense down repeatedly in a 3-9 season.
This time the offense paid the defense back a bit.
“Guys just trusted each other, we had been in these situations before, and we just found a way to win,” Mariota said. “As the season goes on it will always come down to the fourth quarter, and we are going to have to continue to find a way to do that. (Sunday) was a good step forward.”
It it a building block?
The Titans followed up a Week 1 victory in Tampa Bay with a 14-point loss in Cleveland. They followed up a Week 9 win in New Orleans with a 17-point loss to Carolina.
They have not won consecutive games since Dec. 22 and 29, 2013.
Reversing that trend Sunday against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium would qualify as something big and allow Mularkey to say he's changing the franchise's course.