The Tennessee Titans had gone 53 straight regular season games as a team with a sub .500 record, dating back to October 6, 2013. After five failed attempts to climb over .500 this season, it appeared the team had hit their ceiling.
But that all changed when the Titans defeated the defending World Champion Denver Broncos 13-10 Sunday afternoon.
The win put Tennessee over .500 at 7-6 and kept their AFC title hopes alive, but it also gave the Titans a wave of momentum heading down the final stretch of the season.
Both on and off the field.
It’s difficult for a small market team with a recent history of losing and little to no national exposure to gain respect from the national media, and that quest has been an uphill climb all season for the Titans.
While fans and local media pundits could see the progress being made on the field, all the national media could see was Tennessee losing one “get over the hump” game after another.
The two games against the Indianapolis Colts where the Titans failed to bury them in the standings. The game against the Oakland Raiders that slipped through their fingers in week 3 (although I am still waiting for evidence of offensive pass interference on Andre Johnson’s game tying touchdown reception).
The game in San Diego where two fourth quarter gaffes by quarterback Marcus Mariota marred an otherwise historic performance by the young signal caller.
The buzz was there prior to each of those games, but for whatever reason the Titans failed to turn that buzz into momentum.
With less than a minute to play in Sunday’s game, and in desperate need of a defensive stop, linebacker Avery Williamson and safety Rashad Johnson pried the ball loose from Denver receiver A.J. Derby as the Broncos were driving for the tying / winning score.
When the ball was recovered by Damion Stafford to seal the game, pandemonium broke out on the Titans sideline and throughout Nissan Stadium. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who missed the contest with an injury, took to twitter after the game to let the fans know that the stadium was as loud as he’s ever heard it.
Why is that important? It goes back to momentum.
It’s no secret that Nissan Stadium had become a tourist attraction for opposing fans. A horrific home record over the last few years led to apathy among the locals, who would rather sell their tickets than to invest the time and money to watch a…for lack of a better word…sub .500 team.
The national media took notice immediately following the game as well. I jumped around to several major media outlets, and they were all complimenting the Titans on their gritty win and physical style of play.
This morning the national sports talk shows unanimously picked the Titans to win the division over the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts now…something they’ve been hesitant to do prior to Sunday’s win.
And of course, the season-saving home win over a quality opponent that had everything to play for has to give Tennessee’s players a huge boost of confidence as they prepare for this week’s opponent.
Regardless of how the season ends for the Titans, the victory over the Broncos gave this franchise and fan base a reason to believe that brighter days are on the horizon.
They gained national notoriety because of it, which can only help when next year’s crop of free agents begin looking for a young and talented upstart team to join.
Congratulations Tennessee, it’s official. You are no longer the same ole’ Titans.