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VOL. 131 | NO. 191 | Friday, September 23, 2016

Will We One Day Look at Lions Win as Turning Point?

TERRY McCORMICK, Nashville Sports Correspondent

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Was Sunday’s stunning victory in Detroit the start of a turning point for the Tennessee Titans?

Titans cornerback Perrish Cox puts the game away for Tennessee with an interception of Matthew Stafford’s pass.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

For a team that has just six wins since 2013, erasing a 12-point deficit on the road was certainly a sign of hope for a franchise that has experienced virtually nothing but despair for several years now.

At least twice before in their time in Tennessee, the Titans franchise has been able to point toward a single game as the beginning of a turnaround and the opening of a window of opportunity back into contention.

Of course, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves, considering the Titans have not won back-to-back games since the final two games of Mike Munchak’s tenure three seasons ago.

So if the Titans are somehow able to win a second consecutive gave this week when the Oakland Raiders (they’re still in Oakland, aren’t they?) come to town, maybe we’ll look back on their Motor City Miracle as the start of something good.

Jason McCourty, who has been with the club since 2009 and has yet to taste the postseason, is cautiously optimistic.

“Being around here, we haven’t won many games like that, coming back in the fourth quarter with a game-winning drive and going in as a defense and executing to finish it off,” McCourty says.

“Hopefully, that will turn stuff around. I think the one thing this year is that we honestly believed and we thought throughout that whole game that we’d be able to pull it out. Then to do it, now we know we can,” he adds.

Most people remember the first turning-point game for the Titans.

It was the opening game of the 1999 season at what was then known as Adelphia Coliseum. The Titans were hosting the Cincinnati Bengals and found themselves trailing by nine points in the fourth quarter with starting quarterback Steve McNair being booed.

But Air McNair quickly turned those jeers to cheers, leading a comeback that not only won the first game ever at the new stadium but began a 23-game run of invincibility in front of the home folks.

There were many highlights along the way – the Music City Miracle, the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance, and a run of four playoff appearances in a five-year span. The Titans were 56-24 in regular season games during that span.

And it all began with the win against the Bengals, an effort that galvanized a nomadic franchise and married it to a brand new fan base that had been lukewarm during the 8-8 trials and tribulations of going from Houston to Memphis to Vanderbilt and finally to a real home stadium.

The second turning point for the Titans franchise came about a year and a-half after the Titans’ run of glory ended.

By then, the Titans had already shed major stars like Eddie George and Frank Wycheck, even before the 2005 salary cap purge that claimed Derrick Mason, Samari Rolle and Kevin Carter. McNair would play one more year in Tennessee before being dealt to Baltimore in the midst of the Titans’ struggle to rebuild.

From 2004 through an 0-5 start in 2006, the Titans were a miserable 9-28. Things looked bleak.

But when the Titans erased an 11-point deficit in Washington, edging the Redskins 25-22, it suddenly turned things around. There were plenty of contributors – Travis Henry going for 178 yards on the ground, Casey Cramer blocking a Redskins punt for a safety and Lamont Thompson’s interception sealing the victory following a Rob Bironas field goal that snapped a 22-22 tie.

It didn’t seem like much at the time for a struggling team to finally crack the win column. But in many ways, that day those Titans turned the corner and learned how to win again.

It helped the 2006 squad close the year with eight wins in their final 11 games and set the stage for a new opening window that turned into playoff appearances the next two seasons. From that day in D.C. till the end of the 2008 season, the Titans went 31-12. But it had to start somewhere.

These Titans have done little so far to convince anyone they are true contenders. But who knows, maybe months or even years from now, we’ll look back at a comeback in Detroit to say it was the start of something good.

As defensive lineman Karl Klug says: “We have to come back and win again to make this one more enjoyable, too. We’ve just got to keep moving and keep winning. It’s a great start and it’s what we’re hoping to do. But we’ve got to keep winning to make these games matter.”

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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