Murfreesboro Post

Titans end losing skid with 17-10 win over Panthers

Derrick Henry had 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 17-10 Titans win over the Carolina Panthers. ANGIE FLATT

Ugly wins count, too. And the Tennessee Titans will take it, as they edged the one-win Carolina Panthers, 17-10, at Nissan Stadium on Sunday.

The victory marked the end of a three-game Titans losing streak and also kept them perfect at Nissan Stadium, where they are 4-0, as opposed to 0-7 away from Nashville.

The Titans did enough in the first half to jump to a 17-3 lead that it didn’t doom them punting on every drive of the second half against the Panthers, save for the kneel downs in the final minute.

“A win is a win and we talk about how hard winning is in this league,” said rookie quarterback Will Levis, who finished his day 18-of-28 for 185 yards. “That’s one where it kind of feels like ‘You did it.’ We got it and we’ve got to keep building on it.”

The Titans got enough of a boost in the first half where the offense put together a 15-play, 91-yard touchdown drive to take an early lead and the defense harassed Panthers QB Bryce Young all game, most notably with a second-quarter strip sack from Arden Key that Jeffery Simmons recovered. The Titans offense cashed in with Derrick Henry’s second TD of the game.

After such poor play the previous three weeks and on the road all season, the Titans admitted they needed a win for their own confidence that had taken a bit of a hit.

“Any doubt? Yeah, it probably crept in. We’re human so it definitely crept in. It’s OK for it to creep in, but it ain’t OK for it to stay,” Key said. “This builds our confidence. We went on the road and had three-straight losses, but we came home and we had to get the win.”

After the teams exchanged punts, the Titans offense put together their only real threat of the game. Starting at their own 9, Levis got the Titans in a rhythm, completing 7-of-7 throws on the drive for 74 yards to five different receivers. The last of those passes was a 25-yarder to Chig Okonkwo, who took it down to the 1 before Henry punched it in two plays later to complete the march.

“Those are the types of drives that bring up the entire stadium,” Levis said. “Defense, offense, special teams, the fans. When you’re able to just capitulate down the field like that, and then finish it, it’s the best feeling in ball to just finish a drive like that.”

After the Panthers got on the scoreboard with an Eddy Pineiro 50-yard field goal in the second quarter, the Titans defense stepped to the forefront.

Key got one of the Titans’ four sacks against the rookie Young, and it turned out to be the most important one, because the football came out with it. Simmons’ recovery set the Titans up at the Carolina 15.

From there, Levis’ pass to Tyjae Spears got it to the 10, before Henry scored on the next play off the left side to push the lead to 14-3.

The Titans weren’t finished, though, as the defense got a three-and-out with 35 seconds left and the Titans offense took the ball at their own 38 with no timeouts. Levis found Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for 18 yards on a third-and-1 to set up Nick Folk’s 53-yard field goal as the half expired.

The second half didn’t offer any offensive fireworks for the Titans, and the Panthers cobbled together a TD drive in the third quarter to stay close. 

But the Titans defense was strong enough to pick up the slack, using four sacks and six tackles for losses on run plays. That was enough to overcome a day where Tennessee had eight penalties for 53 yards and was just 2-of-11 on third down.

It wasn’t the prettiest, but for the Titans, it was something they hope to somehow build on in a season of struggles for Tennessee.

“It’s tough these last few games of just seeing the looks in dudes’ eyes, dudes that we all know are dogs, guys that just go out there and have done this year in and year out. It was ‘let’s regain that confidence today,’ and this win alone is enough to do that and hopefully we can keep that rolling and get these guys’ confidence up,” Levis said.

The Titans are back at home again Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. They will be trying for their first two-game winning streak in more than a year.