Tennessee Titans: Image altering victory under the lights

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To the casual NFL fan, the Tennessee Titans have been nothing more than an afterthought the past few years. Posting just five victories the last two seasons certainly didn’t help.

This season has been different, however.

The Titans, under a new front office and reconstructed roster, have been playing much better than their 2014 and 2015 predecessors.

In fact, Tennessee is one of just a few teams that have been within a score from taking the lead in the fourth quarter of every game this season.

But when the casual fan looked at the standings after last week’s loss to the Colts, they saw a 3-4 Tennessee team that (to them) resembled the same ole’ Titans.

That all changed Thursday night.

The Titans made the most of their lone primetime appearance in front of a national audience with a resounding 36-22 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football.

And trust me when I say that the score was not indicative of the dominance displayed by the boys in color rush Titan blue.

Tennessee scored the first 27 points of the game, and was never threatened to lose the lead before the Jaguars snuck in some late garbage time points. Several prominent starters sat in the fourth quarter.

Not only did the Titans put together their most complete game in years, but they did so in a fashion befitting their new identity…exotic smash mouth football.

After acquiring running back DeMarco Murray from the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason for (a measly) fourth round pick, head coach Mike Mularkey made a conscious decision to build a run-based offense around him.

Murray responded with a spectacular first half of the season, and as a result, the Titans have quietly become one of the best rushing teams in the league.

Under the bright lights of the national spotlight, Tennessee displayed their new image by racking up 214 rushing yards on an astonishing 43 attempts tonight…spearheaded by Murray’s 123 yards on just 21 carries (5.9 yards per carry).

Murray also chipped in his sixth rushing touchdown of the season (8th overall), and he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

Rookie running back Derrick Henry recorded his first touchdown of the season while spelling Murray tonight, and for the first time all season, the duo depicted as Thunder and Thunder showed what they can do when given a lead and an opportunity to run downhill to protect it.

Tennessee’s defense rebounded from last week’s fourth quarter meltdown against Andrew Luck with a first half shutout of Jags quarterback Blake Bortles, and in the process, showed a national audience that they are deserving of their lofty rankings after eight games.

And last but certainly not least, quarterback Marcus Mariota put together a masterpiece of a game by completing 18 of 22 passes for 270 yards, two touchdowns, and zero turnovers.

After being criticized locally for his inconsistency over the first seven games, Mariota proved to a national audience that he is indeed a franchise quarterback capable of leading the Titans to the playoffs.

Now sitting at 4-4, and just a half game back of the division leading Houston Texans, Tennessee has thrown their name in the hat as a serious contender in the AFC South.

And now the entire NFL knows, thanks to an identity altering performance under the bright lights of Thursday Night Football.

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