It wasn’t pretty, but the Tennessee Titans (5-3) are now riding a season high three-game win streak after defeating the Baltimore Ravens (4-5) 23-20 today at Nissan Stadium.
To be honest, every win in this current streak has been ugly, making the Titans one of the most scrutinized 4 win teams in the league entering this contest.
Today’s performance, especially on offense, will likely do little to quiet the naysayers.
The run game never got going. The offense was non-existent for much of the second half, and the defense allowed a late surge from the Ravens. But at the end of the day the team is still sitting atop the AFC South at the midway point of the season.
In fact, given where this team was two short years ago, ugly wins should be viewed as a beautiful thing.
Yes, the Titans were the preseason favorite to win the division. Yes, the offense has underperformed based on the offseason acquisitions to the passing game. And yes, on paper, the last three games shouldn’t have been as close as they were.
But this is a team that hasn’t enjoyed playoff success in nearly a decade, and it takes more than 16 regular season games (in 2016) to completely change a losing culture into a winning one.
The last three games show the Titans are well on their way in that transition, even if the eye test says otherwise.
Two signs of a good team? Beating the teams you’re supposed to beat and finding a way to win even when you don’t play your A game.
As ugly as the last three wins have been, the Titans checked both boxes in each game.
The offense bailed out a leaky first half defense by scoring plenty of fourth quarter points of their own in their win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The defense returned the favor the following week in Cleveland with three pivotal turnovers when the offense failed to score a touchdown in their 12-9 overtime victory over the Browns.
This week, both units took turns bailing each other out.
The offense got off to a hot start against a stout Ravens’ defense, looking more aggressive while scoring two first half touchdowns.
The second half saw a role reversal as the defense got sacks, a turnover, and a critical fourth down stop to bail out an offense that failed to gain a first down in the third quarter.
Late in the game when the defense appeared weary, the struggling offense put together a nine play – 67 yard drive that culminated in a game-clinching touchdown.
Last year the Titans probably wouldn’t have strung together three straight wins with inconsistencies plaguing both sides of the ball at various times throughout the game.
We all have seen how impressive Tennessee looks when clicking on all cylinders, just ask Jacksonville and Seattle.
But this is the NFL, and it’s hard for any team to maintain that level of productivity for 16 straight games.
It’s the close calls, the ugly wins that ultimately separate good teams from playoff teams. And if the Titans make the playoffs this year they will look back and find beauty in this ugly win streak.