NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans know they’re in no position to be choosy over how they win games.
Not yet anyway.
The Baltimore Ravens are eager to use their bye to heal up and clean up some of the mistakes that keep costing them.
Marcus Mariota threw for two touchdowns and safety Kevin Byard intercepted two more passes as the Titans held off Baltimore 23-20 Sunday for their third straight victory coming off their own bye.
“I wish it wasn’t that way all the time,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “But, I know our guys know we can win them.”
The win keeps the Titans (5-3) on top of the AFC South by a tiebreaker over Jacksonville, and they host Cincinnati next with a chance to reach six wins at the earliest point in a season since 2008 when Tennessee won its first 10 games.
“When you can pull these tough ones out, especially against a good team like Baltimore, it builds confidence,” Mariota said.
The Ravens (4-5) head into their bye having lost three of four, and left tackle Ronnie Stanley hurt a shoulder in the second half. Coach John Harbaugh didn’t have an update on Stanley after the game, but the coach wasn’t happy with two turnovers, a shanked punt and his offense’s struggles.
“We have a bye week and seven games left,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We better get this … fixed, or we are going to be on the outside looking in again.”
Here are some things to know about the Titans and Ravens:
Byard's picks: Byard has five interceptions in the span of seven quarters, becoming the fifth in the NFL to do that since the league merger in 1970 and the first since 2010. He just missed a chance at a sixth interception in the final 70 seconds. Byard led the NFL with six interceptions this season after the early Sunday games.
Win one, lose one: Harbaugh won his first challenge when he forced officials to review the spot on a fourth-and-1 play they had ruled the runner shy of the spot. The Ravens finished that drive with a 49-yard field goal from Justin Tucker. The Ravens wound up converting three of four fourth downs, and Harbaugh again threw the challenge flag on the first play of the fourth quarter when officials ruled Javorius Allen short on fourth-and-inches at the Titans 17. Review didn’t change their ruling, leaving Baltimore with only one timeout and no more challenges.
Angry left tackle: Taylor Lewan didn’t hide his fury after Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon hit Mariota after the Titans quarterback threw away a pass near the sideline. Officials flagged Ravens linebacker Za’Darius Smith for unnecessary roughness for a hit on Mariota in the second quarter, but it wasn’t enough for the Titans left tackle.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s getting out of hand,” Lewan said. “People get mad and go, ‘Oh, you’re doing too much.’ No. If they’re not going to do it, then we need to do it. I’ve already been warned once about talking to the refs by the NFL. I got a letter about that, but I’m like, ‘Protect our quarterback.’”
Red zone: The Titans finally got their first two TD passes from Mariota inside an opponent’s 20 this season. The Titans led the NFL scoring the most TDs inside the red zone last season, and nobody had a better passer rating over 2015 and 2016 combined than Mariota. The third-year quarterback has 35 TD passes with no interceptions in that part of the field in his career. The Titans finished with three TDs on three trips into the red zone with Derrick Henry finishing a drive with a 1-yard run.
Ravens' defense: Baltimore held Tennessee to 257 yards, and Eric Weddle picked off a Mariota pass that helped start the Ravens’ rally. The Ravens also sacked Mariota three times. But the Ravens could not stop the Titans from driving 75 yards for what wound up as the game-winning TD with 3:58 left.