NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With the ball in his hands and 75 yards and 1:55 between him and a win, Marcus Mariota dropped back, got hit by T.Y. McGill, dropped the ball and watched Robert Mathis take it 14 yards for a touchdown.
That provided the Colts with their second touchdown in eight seconds inside the two-minute warning, and they beat the Titans 34-26. It was the Titans' 10th consecutive loss to the Colts and their 15th in the past 16 meetings.
The Titans' slow climb to respectability took another hit as they tried to accelerate the pace. All the fight the Titans showed to work back from a 17-6 deficit was washed away, and the chance to get to 4-3 and deal the Colts a significant blow disappeared.
Now both teams are 3-4, and the Titans are 0-2 in the still-woeful AFC South. And so certain they’d turned a corner, the Titans showed they still don’t measure up to Indy, even in the midst of the Colts’ serious struggles.
The Titans have just three days to rebound. The Jaguars come to Nissan Stadium for a Thursday night game, providing the Titans with a quick chance to turn it around and get to .500 halfway through the season.
Trying to preserve a three-point lead with 6:02 left, the Titans' defense gave up a touchdown drive finished off by a 7-yard Andrew Luck-to-Jack Doyle pass. On the play, linebacker Avery Williamson couldn’t track the tight end’s route from the slot to the back of the end zone near the goalpost.
"We had been kind of going in a good direction the last few weeks," outside linebacker Derrick Morgan said. "We just let them do too much offensively, moving up and down the field.
"For them to close it out and get a touchdown, it hurts. We didn't execute like we needed to and they got one."
Mariota and the offense didn’t get a chance to answer, with the quarterback quickly losing the fumble that resulted in another score.
"It was kind of perfect timing for him," Mariota said of McGill's forced fumble. "Right when I was separating my hands to throw the football, he kind of poked at it."
Said coach Mike Mularkey: "It can't happen. We felt very good about our situation with the time [1:55] and our time out left. ... Again, it's one of those things we had happen to us that we've got to stop doing."
When the game was over, as they typically do after home games that don't go well, the Titans immediately erased the score from the stadium scoreboard.
Which doesn’t fix a thing for them.