The Tennessee Titans (3-3) defeated the Indianapolis Colts (2-4) 36-22 in a game that saw the return of quarterback Marcus Mariota.
After missing the last game and a half with an injured hamstring, a less than 100% Mariota took the field in a must-win game for the Titans.
Known for being a dangerous dual-threat qb his entire career, Mariota was unable to use his most prized possessions tonight….his legs
And it may have been the best thing to happen to him.
Operating solely from within the pocket, Mariota turned in one of his best performances in this all-important streak-halting victory.
Mariota was 28th in the league with a 60% completion rate heading into the game, but while forced to stand in the pocket, he completed 72% of his passes tonight for a season-high 306 yards.
His 53 yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Taywan Taylor put the Titans ahead for good in the fourth quarter.
Most defenses make it a priority to take away Mariota’s running lanes when he drops back to pass, as he is as dangerous as they come when he takes off.
Tonight the Colts knew that he was a stationary target, and Mariota made them pay anyway by hitting strike after strike….especially in the second half when he threw repeated darts to Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews to extend drives.
More importantly, Mariota continued to stand in the pocket and sling it after being on the receiving end of several big hits. One drawing a personal foul for unnecessesary roughness.
He never panicked. He didn’t get happy feet. He kept his resolved and looked comfortable in the pocket throughout the game.
So what does this mean going forward?
It means that opposing teams will now have to think twice about leaving a clean pocket for Mariota, as he showed tonight that he can beat you from it.
And with a bye coming up in two weeks, Mariota…barring a setback…should have all of his faculties at his disposal for the stretch run of the season.
Translation, the Titans’ entire playbook (including the run-pass option plays) will be available to exploit matchups going forward….along with the traditional drop back pocket qb plays.
A hard thing to game-plan for if you’re a defensive coordinator.
While the last two weeks were frustrating for the organization, players, and fans, it was worth it to find out that your franchise qb is more than a run-first spread-option flash in the pan.
Who knows if or when we would have seen this Mariota if not for the hamstring injury? His performance had to do wonders for his confidence.
Sometimes, blessings come in disguise.