NFL Wire News

Mariota outduels Winston in season opener

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The Sports Xchange

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans began the season in incredible fashion on Sunday, with a 42-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Marcus Mariota starring with four touchdown passes to four different receivers.

Mariota, making his first NFL start, was better than even the most optimistic Titans fan could have been, completing 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards and the four scores. In the process, Mariota posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3, the first time that had ever been done by a player in his first NFL start. Mariota also tied a record set in 1961 by Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in throwing the four touchdowns.

The Titans had some idea of how polished Mariota would be, though, getting glimpses in training camp and preseason.

“I think everybody saw it coming. He’s a great football player. His mentality is there. I’m just excited to block for him,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “I know guys are nervous about him running and stuff like that, but to be that guy’s left tackle and for him to have the debut that he did I feel partly responsible for that. I know this offensive line does and it’s exciting to have that kind of production.”

Now, the next question for Mariota and the Titans is to somehow build momentum on Sunday’s win. The Titans a year ago began the season 1-0 with a road win in Kansas City, but things quickly unraveled after that, as they won only one of their final 15 games.

“I think the biggest thing for us right now is we accomplished what we wanted to, but we’ve got to put that behind us and move forward, and we’ve got to go in this week with the same focus that we did last week. If we can do that, then we’ve got a chance to be a better football team,” Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Next up for the Titans is another winnable game as they travel to face the Cleveland Browns. That should be very familiar to the Titans, as far as a reminder of how things came apart last year. Tennessee blew a 25-point lead last year at home to the Browns, something they don’t want a repeat of on Sunday.

REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS

PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus – Marcus Mariota showed he was far more advanced than fellow rookie Jameis Winston on Sunday, looking like a polished veteran with four TD passes to four different receivers and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 to begin his pro career.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus – The Titans didn’t have a dominant runner, but they got 74 yards from Bishop Sankey and 43 more from newcomer Terrance West. In all, the Titans had 124 yards on the ground, a good showing given how maligned their offensive line has been.

PASS DEFENSE: A – Four sacks, two interceptions and they made Jameis Winston look like a skittish rookie. Mission accomplished for Dick LeBeau in his first game running the Titans defense.

RUSH DEFENSE: B – The run defense was solid, holding Doug Martin to 52 yards in the game. They were helped by the fact that the Bucs quickly abandoned the run after falling behind so far in the first half.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus — Nothing spectacularly good or bad from this unit, but it was an area that head coach Ken Whisenhunt cited for needing some improvement in his Monday press conference. The best play of the day on special teams was Phillip Supernaw downing a punt at the 2-yard line.

COACHING: A – The Titans had a great game plan on both sides of the football, mixing in some read option with their normal playbook and allowing Marcus Mariota to execute it flawlessly. Defensively, the plan was to pressure Jameis Winston into mistakes and force turnovers, which they did, most notably with Coty Sensabaugh’s pick-six on the first defensive series.


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