Fitzpatrick threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds remaining to cap a mistake-free performance that led Tennessee to a 23-19 victory over the Raiders on Sunday.
"That would have been a big, big loss for us in terms of what the rest of the season was going to look like," Fitzpatrick said. "We knew this was a 'gotta-have-it' drive at the end of the game and the guys really stepped up."
Fitzpatrick also threw a 54-yard TD pass to Justin Hunter and Rob Bironas added three field goals to give Tennessee (5-6) its second win in seven games. But despite the recent slump, the Titans find themselves in a six-way tie for the final playoff spot in the AFC.
"We knew going into this one, in our world it was a playoff game," coach Mike Munchak said. "We couldn't fall to 4-7, we knew that. I'm sure they felt the same way, so that was a huge drive."
The Raiders (4-7) missed a chance to get into that group as the defense failed to hold onto a late lead and Sebastian Janikowski missed two field goals.
After Bironas put Tennessee up 16-12 with his third field goal, Matt McGloin led the Raiders on a 75-yard scoring drive. He completed all four attempts and accounted for all but 1 yard on the drive, capping it with a 27-yard pass to Marcel Reece with 6:10 to play.
Fitzpatrick calmly moved Tennessee downfield, completing eight of 10 passes. Then facing third-and-goal from the 10, Fitzpatrick found Wright, who beat Tracy Porter on an out pattern from the slot and fell into the end zone for the winning score.
"Ryan made a great throw," Wright said. "All I had to do was look it in and get in the end zone. Before the start of that drive we said we weren't going to let Rob Bironas come out here and kick a field goal to tie it up. We wanted to go down there and score seven. We'd been in this predicament a lot this season where we had the ball and we couldn't finish. We finally put it together and finished today."
The play flittingly came on third down, when Fitzpatrick was at his best on his 31st birthday. He converted 10 of 18 third downs in the game, often in long-yardage situations in his best game yet in place of the injured Jake Locker. He completed 30 of 42 passes for 320 yards —none bigger than the throw to Wright.
Hunter and Wright were his favorite targets, gaining 109 and 103 yards, respectively.
"They just out-executed us, plain and simple," Porter said. "Whether it was game plan, guys out of position on certain things, coverages, landmarks, we're supposed to get on the quarterback. We were just out-executed."
Fitzpatrick and the Titans capitalized on a blown assignment for the first touchdown of the game on the opening drive of the third quarter. Hunter was left wide open and caught a pass 17 yards downfield before juking Phillip Adams and Brandian Ross and racing to the end zone for the score that put Tennessee up 13-9.
The Raiders answered with a good drive before stalling at the 30. Janikowski missed his second field goal as his season-long struggles continue as he adjusts to new holder Marquette King after the departure of longtime mate Shane Lechler in the offseason.
McGloin, an undrafted rookie out of Penn State, put the Raiders in position for a second straight win after his three-touchdown, no-interception performance last week in Houston. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 260 yards to earn a third start Thursday in Dallas, but also threw an interception that set up Tennessee's second field goal.
"Up and down day," McGloin said. "You're going to have days like that. I thought we missed on a couple of opportunities offensively, but we'll go back to the drawing board."
It was an ugly first half that featured five field goals, a blocked punt, a missed chip shot, a number of dropped passes, a poorly thrown interception and 12 penalties for 135 yards.
The Raiders led 9-6 at the break, but could have had an even bigger advantage after Jeremy Stewart blocked Brett Kern's punt with 11 seconds left. McGloin threw a 23-yard pass to Rod Streater on the next play, but Janikowski pushed a 32-yard field goal wide left. That was his second miss from inside 40 yards this season after making 85 of 86 the previous five seasons.
"We're not making them, not consistently enough," Allen said. "We have to continue to work to get better there."
NOTES: The Titans had two 100-yard receivers and a 300-yard passer in the same game for the first time since Dec. 19, 2004, in a loss to Oakland. ... Raiders TE Mychal Rivera left in the first half with a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit from Titans S Michael Griffin. Oakland CB Mike Jenkins (concussion) and LB Kevin Burnett (bruised quad) and Tennessee TE Craig Stevens (concussion) also left with injuries.
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