You have to journey all the way back to the 2011 season to find the last time the Tennessee Titans won three games in a row.
Back in those days, QB Matt Hasselbeck was completing passes to Nate Washington, the team’s top receiver. The Titans opened 2011 with a loss to Jacksonville, then rattled off three straight wins on their way to a 9-7 record, the last time the team finished above .500.
The Titans have a chance to match that feat this Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts (2-4) limp into Nashville fresh off a fourth-quarter collapse against Houston. Should Tennessee beat the Colts, the Titans will have three straight wins and stand 4-3.
As for Sunday’s game against the Browns, the Titans survived a late-game scare to win two straight for the first time since 2013. That accomplishment has been fully noticed.
“There have been a lot of changes around here,” said WR Kendall Wright, who finished with 8 catches for a game-high 133 yards. “It feels good to win back-to-back games.”
Added third-year offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, “This hasn’t happened since I’ve been here.”
The Titans have already matched their win total for all last year. They have won just 5 games the past two seasons and haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. The Titans haven’t won a playoff game since 2003.
Sunday’s game has been a springboard for optimism, in large part because of the play of QB Marcus Mariota, who finished with a passer rating of 132.6, his best of the season. Mariota threw for 3 TDs and has accounted for 7 TDs the past two weeks.
Perhaps most welcoming for Titans fans is Mariota finally threw the deep ball and connected on two bombs. Wright made a jumping-bean-type catch for a 48-yard TD, while Rishard Matthews also made a diving grab good for 43 yards.
Mariota was a perfect 4-for-4 on passes that traveled over 20 yards, injecting velocity into an offense known to trudge downfield in slow motion.
“Those are the plays we’ve been missing,” said Titans coach Mike Mularkey. “Those plays have been out there, we just haven’t made them.”
Another reason to believe the Titans may be ready to contend for a playoff spot – the defense. For the second week in a row, the Titans D recorded six sacks, scolding Brown QB Cody Kessler like a bad dog.
The Titans also showed they could win when star tailback DeMarco Murray was held in check. Murray was limited to 65 yards, but the spotlight on him allowed Mariota to run for 64 yards, including a 41-yard scramble on the first play of the game.
Cleveland was the first of a three-game homestand for Tennessee. After facing Indy this Sunday, the Titans stay in Nashville to face Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football.