NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Marcus Mariota finally threw his first touchdown pass inside the red zone this season, and the Tennessee Titans scored on all three of their trips inside the opponent’s 20.
For the Titans, that’s progress even if they’re not where they want to be just yet.
”We’re close,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
The Titans (5-3) won their third straight game by beating the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 with the offense finally showing signs of looking like a unit that was the NFL’s best at scoring touchdowns in the red zone last season. It helped that Mariota appears completely over the strained left hamstring that cost him six quarters and limited his mobility for two games.
Tennessee also got rookie wide receiver Corey Davis, the No. 5 pick overall in April, back on the field after missing five games. Davis played 39 snaps in his first game since Sept. 17 and caught only two of the five passes thrown at him for 28 yards. But the rookie from Western Michigan made an impressive toe-dragging catch on the sideline for 23 yards.
Mariota said having Davis back and starting was very important.
”When you have a guy that makes plays on the football like he does, it helps everybody out, gets everybody open,” Mariota said. ”He made a couple of great plays for us (Sunday). Again, when you are able to do that, when you are able to win one-on-one and find ways to make big plays, it’ll help us out.”
The Titans also scored their first touchdown in the first quarter since the season opener with Mariota finding wide receiver Rishard Matthews on a 16-yard TD pass. Derrick Henry scored on a 1-yard run, and the Titans drove 75 yards for what wound up as the winning TD late in the fourth quarter.
Mariota finished off the drive with a TD pass to veteran Eric Decker who slipped out left when the receiver noticed a couple of other Titans bottled up by the Ravens. Mariota said the Titans know they can score in the red zone but just had to execute.
”It’s something to build off of but, you know, that’s the expectation,” Mariota said. ”That’s how we should be playing.”
The Titans now have to prepare to host Cincinnati (3-5) with a couple of players still dealing with injuries.
Running back DeMarco Murray, who wasn’t on the injury report leading up to the Baltimore game, hurt a knee that Mularkey said Monday will limit the Pro Bowler this week. Tight end Delanie Walker also will be limited as he recovers from a bone bruise in his ankle, though Walker played and still led the Titans with five catches for 71 yards.
Mularkey said left guard Quinton Spain might miss a second straight game with turf toe.
But the Titans still find themselves with the team’s best record in years at the midpoint of their season. A win Sunday would give them six wins earlier than at any point since 2008 when Tennessee won its first 10 games.
”We are not where we want to be offensively, but we are making it happen …,” Matthews said. ”Our defense is doing a great job in getting the ball back for us and continuing to try to let us do what we do offensively. Special teams have been doing a great job as well. Offensively, we just got to pick it up. We will get there.”
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