Marcus Mariota did not just lead the Titans to a shocking 30 point rout of the Browns on opening day, he did something he had not done since November of 2016 throwing 3 touchdown passes.
Yep, the last time Mariota threw 3 TD’s in one game was when Tennessee hung 47 points on Green Bay at Nissan Stadium. That was 33 starts ago and a load of scrutiny since.
Mariota is in the final year of his contract and most view it as a “make or break” year for him and helped break the Browns Sunday with a largely mistake free performance finishing 14 of 24 for 248 yards, 3 TD’s and just as important 0 interceptions.
Mariota was playing behind an offensive line that was down two starters and protection was not at a premium as he was sacked 4 times. Head coach Mike Vrabel liked his calm under fire, ” Well I think he was composed he got us into all the right plays and they were pressuring and some of those things weren’t easy.”
Mariota also helped do something the Titans struggled to do mightily last season, deliver big plays in the passing game. In 2018 they had only 6 plays that went 40 yards or longer, Sunday they had 3 of them. Rookie AJ Brown deliver two with catches of 47 and 51 yards while Derrick Henry delivered a 75 yard touchdown on a screen pass.
The always laid back Mariota said it was simple as counting on his teammates, “We had a tall task up front and our guys did a great job of handling that and from there I know for me if I can just distribute the ball and make plays they’re going to do it.”
Without Delanie Walker last season because of an ankle injury the Titans passing game struggled to do a lot consistently. Walker was back Sunday and caught 5 passes for 55 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is not just a security blanket for Mariota, he is his go to guy, the guy he trusts most. There’s a clear confidence when he throws to Walker that is not there for everyone else and it showed again on Sunday as the two long time teammates looked in sync once again.
It will take for the rest of the receivers to catch up their chemistry, but Sunday was a pretty good start.