The Tennessee Titans headed to Miami on Sunday needing to get back in the groove. They had played close with a lot of teams this year, but have not been able to get over that hump more times than not. And with them starting at a 1-3 record and having designs keeping their playoff hopes alive, the Titans needed a win in Florida or they could have kissed their playoff hopes goodbye. Well, it seems like the Titans realized the urgency they needed to play with today. They hung in with the Dolphins and ended up pulling away from them at the end, leading to a 30-17 win. The Titans are now headed back home to take on the Cleveland Browns next week and they also have a chance to pull their record to 3-3. The defense was playing well and the offense did what it needed to do, but the most important guy that was needed today was the quarterback, Marcus Mariota. His play had been suspect all season long and many were wondering when pressure was going to be applied to his starting position. But after Houston, he surely showed things can change from game to game.
The biggest issue seemed to be the accuracy of Mariota to start the season. When he first came in as a rookie, Mariota was completing 62.2% of his passes. But this season, it seemed as if he was off a little with his throws, leading to interceptions and missed opportunities. And with those misses and misreads, some Titans fans began to wonder what the Titans had in him and if they had made a mistake with him. Well, it may have only been for one game, but Mariota seemed to be on point in this game against the Dolphins. Miami had a weakness in their secondary. They were missing both their starting corners and were playing a former wide receiver in Tony Lippett at one cornerback position. And with that being the case for the Titans, Mariota took advantage of the opportunities he was given. He went 20/29 (69% completion percentage) and threw for a season-high three touchdowns and no interceptions. This was the first game all season that Mariota did not throw an interception. And he honestly did not really come close to throwing one. The Titans offense seemed to strike some balance in this game because of what Mariota was able to do in his best game of the season.
But not only did Mariota do some things with his arms, but with his legs. When Mariota came into the NFL, many talked about his abilities outside of the pocket. While at Oregon, he could routinely be seen breaking off long runs. But in the NFL, it seems that we have yet to really see any flashes of that. Of course, you don't want your quarterback running all the time anyway, so that is a good thing. But when the time calls for it, Mariota needs to be able to do it. And in this game, he finally took advantage of some opportunities both called by the offensive coordinator and unrehearsed. He scored a touchdown in the first half on a designed quarterback run where he showed off his speed. And while the Titans were making a two-minute drive before the half, Mariota again showed off his wheels. He did not find anyone open in the passing game and finally took off with the football. The play resulted in a 21 yard scramble that helped the Titans get a touchdown before halftime. When Mariota uses his legs, it makes defenses uncomfortable. And where he really hurts defenses is when he does so when he scrambles. He went through his progressions and just took off, which is something that he has not been doing much this season.
The Titans now have a stretch of games at home where Browns, Colts and Jaguars and all three of these games are winnable. And hopefully for the Titans, the performance they got from Mariota will grow his confidence. And if his confidence starts growing this season after this game, the Titans offense can get better and better. Maybe we have seen the start of his growth as a quarterback in this one game.