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Titans follow up win over Eagles with 13-12 loss to Bills

October 7, 2018
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Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nick Williams drops a pass from quarterback Marcus Mariota near the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — So much for the Tennessee Titans vowing not to take the Buffalo Bills for granted.

That was safety Kevin Byard’s lament when reminded how the Titans followed up last week’s thrilling 26-23 overtime win over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles with a 13-12 loss to the Bills on Sunday.

“It shouldn’t have been a lesson because we talked about it all week, about not coming here and laying an egg,” Byard said. “But we did, and we lost, and we’ve got to get better.”

Rather than enjoy their best start in 10 years, the Titans fell to 3-2 and blew a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the AFC South standings after Jacksonville (3-2) lost at Kansas City.

“Respect has to be earned, not given, and we didn’t earn our respect today,” Byard said. “We didn’t do too much of anything good today on all levels.”

Despite limiting the Bills to 223 yards of offense, the Titans gave up a final 11-play, 47-yard drive capped by Stephen Hauschka’s 46-yard field goal as time expired.

It wasn’t all on the defense.

The Marcus Mariota-led offense gained just 221 yards, had 15 first downs and settled for four field goals by Ryan Succop. Worse still, running back Dion Lewis and receiver Taywan Taylor lost a fumble, while Mariota threw an interception.

For a Titans team that showed resolve in winning each of its last three games by 3 points, Tennessee showed it can also lose a close one.

“You can’t have it one way when you win and another way when you lose,” first-year coach Mike Vrabel said. “The playing wasn’t good enough today. The blocking wasn’t good enough. Everything about the Titans wasn’t good enough, and that’s on me.”

Mariota’s inconsistencies were apparent a week after he rallied the Titans from a 14-point third-quarter deficit by hitting Corey Davis for a 10-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left in overtime.

Against Buffalo, he finished 14 of 26 for 129 yards and was sacked twice.

The first sack, by Trent Murphy, came on third-and-9 at the Bills 31, forcing the Titans to settle for Succop hitting a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

The second sack, by Jerry Hughes, came on third-and-8 at the Buffalo 29. Mariota fumbled, but was fortunate the ball bounced off his toe and went out of bounds. That led to Succop hitting a 50-yard field goal to put the Titans up 12-10 with 4:43 remaining.

The Titans’ best chance of finding the end zone slipped through their fingers early in the fourth quarter.

Facing third-and-4 at Buffalo’s 23, Mariota avoided the pass rush and scrambled to his left, where he lobbed to receiver Nick Williams, who was wide open in the end zone. Williams had the pass drop through his hands while attempting to make an over-the-shoulder catch. Again, Tennessee settled for a field goal by Succop.

“You have to focus on the next play and drop whatever happened,” Mariota said of Williams’ drop.

The game was the second this season in which Succop has accounted for all of Tennessee’s points. He hit three field goals in a 9-6 win at Jacksonville two weeks ago.

Titans starting left tackle Taylor Lewan did not return after hurting his right foot in the second quarter.

Lewan said he aggravated an injury from last season, and noted his foot was swollen last weekend. He said initial tests showed his foot wasn’t broken, but added he’ll have further tests on Monday.

“It shouldn’t be a long-term thing,” Lewan said. “I just didn’t have any power and couldn’t push off.”

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