by Terry McCormick
In what was a laugher for three quarters, the Tennessee Titans wound up hanging on with a late goal-line stand to win at Chicago, 27-21.
The Titans built a 27-7 lead, then watched as Matt Barkley, making his first career start, brought the Bears back to within a first-and-goal situation with a chance to win the game.
Barkley’s receivers betrayed him, and the Titans managed to escape with a victory in spite of a secondary ravaged by Barkley, who finished 28 of 54 for 316 yards with three touchdown passes and two costly interceptions, including one in the end zone.
The victory did even the Titans’ record at 6-6 this season, heading into a bye week, before Tennessee returns home to face Denver on Dec. 11.
Tennessee’s cliffhanger win, coupled with the Houston Texans’ loss to San Diego, leaves the Titans just a half game behind in the division with four games to play.
After spotting the Bears a touchdown on the opening drive, the Titans appeared to be in control of the game, scoring three times in the first half to coast to a 21-7 halftime lead.
After punting on their first series and giving up points to Chicago, the Titans evened the score on Derrick Henry’s 11-yard run, and then took the lead when Marcus Mariota hit Delanie Walker with a four-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
The Titans built on that lead when Mariota connected with Rishard Matthews, who made a fantastic diving catch for a 29-yard yard TD that pushed the lead to two touchdowns. It also was Mariota’s 25th touchdown pass of the season, pushing him past Steve McNair into fourth place in single-season touchdown passes.
In the second half, the Titans were unable to finish a pair of drives and settled for Ryan Succop field goals of 19 and 31 yards.
That’s when Barkley went to work in what looked like garbage time, until the Bears scored twice on consecutive drives and then forced a Titans punt and took the ball with just under two minutes to play.
Barkley marched the Bears inside the 10-yard line, but four tries at the end zone came up empty, in large part because of dropped passes by the Bears receivers against a struggling Titans secondary.
Mariota was 15 of 23 for 226 yards and two touchdowns and also added 46 yards on four runs, including a 29-yarder that set up a Succop field goal.
Henry led the Titans in rushing with 60 yards on just eight carries, as the Bears keyed on DeMarco Murray, holding him to a season-low 43 yards on 17 rushes.
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