Facing what was probably a must-win game, the Tennessee Titans shook off a shaky start and claimed a 28-14 victory over the host Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.
The Titans turned the football over on their first two possessions and gave up a touchdown to the Cowboys following a strip sack of Marcus Mariota on the Titans' first offensive series.
The Cowboys had driven downfield on the opening series, but the Titans dodged a bullet when Dallas kicker Brett Maher missed a field goal.
After the strip sack of Mariota, the Cowboys cashed in as Dak Prescott hit newly acquired Amari Cooper for a 4-yard touchdown, as he beat Malcolm Butler on for the score.
The Titans found trouble again on their next possession, when a handoff between Mariota and Dion Lewis was fumbled, and the Cowboys recovered at the Titans' 41. The Cowboys appeared on the verge of another score, but safety Kevin Byard, bailed them out with an end zone interception as Prescott tried to throw to a double-covered Cooper.
After his pick, Byard celebrated by doing his best Terrell Owens impersonation by standing and celebrating on the Cowboys' star logo at the 50-yard line. Byard might as well have been celebrating the salvaging of a sinking Titans season. That play breathed life into the Titans, as the offense put together an 80-yard drive culminating with a 1-yard touchdown run from Derrick Henry that tied the game.
The Titans then took their first lead in the second quarter, putting together a 69-yard TD drive I seven plays. Mariota had a well-executed screen pass that Dion Lewis took 18 yards for the go-ahead score. Dallas answered just before halftime, evening the game at 14-all as Prescott found Allen Hurns, who beat Butler on a double move for the tying score.
In the second half, the Titans defense dominated, holding the Cowboys scoreless, sacking Prescott four times and getting a crucial turnover when Jayon Brown stripped the ball away on one of those four sacks. Wesley Woodyard recovered the fumble at the Cowboys' 40.
The Titans marched downfield and used a bit of trickery to get in the end zone, resorting to the read option with Mariota pulling the ball away from Lewis at the last possible moment and flipping it to Jonnu Smith for a 7-yard TD on a shovel pass.
The Titans missed a fourth quarter field goal, as Ryan Succop's kick hit the upright from 26 yards out, the Titans defense rose to the occasion getting two sacks on the Cowboys' next series.
Buoyed again by a strong defensive showing, the Titans put the game away by following up with a touchdown drive. Mariota scored from 9 yards out on a quarterback draw to make the score 28-14.
With the win, the Titans end a three-game losing streak and move to 4-4 on the season. Tennessee will host the New England Patriots on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Mariota, playing without the half glove on his throwing hand for the first time since being injured in the season opener, shook off his slow start to finish 21 of 29 for 240 yards and two touchdown passes. He also rushed for 32 yards and a score, as the Titans put up 125 yards on the ground as a team.