The Thursday night loss in Pittsburgh was certainly not Marcus Mariota’s finest hour with the Tennessee Titans.
After never having thrown more than two interceptions in a game for the Titans, the Steelers picked him off four times on the night en route to a 40-17 victory.
There was a wide variety of different reasons the passes were picked off. The first interception, on Tennessee’s first possession, was a simple overthrow that landed in the hands of Pittsburgh defensive back Mike Hilton. The second came when former Titan Coty Sensabaugh stepped in front of rookie Corey Davis on an out route for the pick.
In the second half, Mariota’s third interception again involved the rookie Davis, who probably should have caught the pass, even though the throw was behind him. It was tipped into the air and picked off.
That performance gives Mariota 10 interceptions thrown on the season, more than the nine he had all last year.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey admitted there things Mariota could have done better.
“Probably, when you turn the ball over four times, whether it’s you throwing it or not throwing it, things he could’ve done a lot better. Yeah, there’s some things he could’ve done better,” Mularkey said.
The coach also said that the interception increase isn’t solely on Mariota’s shoulders.
“A variety of reasons, and not solely all his responsibility. I think whether it’s been pressure, had more pressure, more blitz, more making him move, more guys needing to make plays, more guys being where that ball, like last night,” he said. “Th0at’s the thing about zone coverage, that’s how Kevin Byard makes these interceptions, they just happen to be in the right place in the right time and that’s kind of what happened with some of his interceptions.”
While the interceptions are up, his touchdown passes are way down. Mariota has just eight touchdown passes on the season, whereas he finished 2016 with 26 TD tosses.
As for the reason that touchdown passes have been much harder to come by this season, Mularkey pointed to some drops – including one by Delanie Walker Thursday night. Rishard Matthews also dropped a potential touchdown catch last week against the Bengals.
He indicated that the Titans red zone situations have played a part in Mariota’s touchdown pass decline.
“Other than the ones we’re dropping? No, we’re in the red zone more this year than we were last year, the high red,” he said. “Earlier in the year, we had failed to get down in the tighter red where more of his throws were coming that he threw last year. We just weren’t down there as much as we were a year ago and I think that has a lot to do with why his production’s off from a year ago.”