The Tennessee Titans (2-1) went into TIAA Bank Field today and pulled off a shocking 9-6 victory over the heavily favored Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1), in a game befitting their tough and physical rivalry.
While we assumed it would play out that way, no one could have predicted that Marcus Mariota would be the tough and physical catalyst to swing the game in Tennessee’s favor.
The heavily scruinized signal caller came off the bench to lead the Titans to the only three scores it needed to secure the victory.
In the week leading up to this contest, Nashville sports talk radio stations were flooded with callers questioning Mariota’s toughness after being named the emergency qb for the second straight week.
Some callers even suggested that backup Blaine Gabbert be given the keys to the franchise after Tennessee’s upset win over Houston last Sunday.
Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, sports talk radio stations were flooded with callers all week who looked at the Titans as nothing more than an afterthought after their impressive win over New England last week.
Jacksonville’s players treated today’s match up as just another stop on their revenge tour after being swept by Tennessee last season.
Mariota silenced them all today with his poise and mobility.
It appeared evident that starting qb Blaine Gabbert was in for a long day, even before exiting the game with a concussion in the first quarter.
His lack of mobility essentially made him a sitting duck, and Jacksonville teed off with two early tone-setting sacks.
Enter Mariota, who looked confident when he left the pocket, to the tune of 51 rushing yards. Most importantly, he averaged over seven yards per carry.
On designed runs, Mariota didn’t shy away from contact. He extended second half drives by taking on defenders and showing his athleticism.
Mariota’s poise was evident in the second half, continuing to throw timely darts after his receivers dropped several passes in the first half, two of them would have led to first downs.
The receivers settled down in the second half, and Mariota closed the game with an accuracy reserved for the league’s elite.
In similar fashion to last year’s regular season finale against the Jags, Mariota iced the game with a critical third down conversion with his legs in the final minute.
Mariota’s soft-spoken personality and propensity to miss games will keep his detractors hovering, but today they must reside to the fact that the kid has been tough as nails in the biggest games…when his team needed him the most.
Just ask the Jaguars.
If they never have to face Mariota again, it would probably be too soon.