Marcus Mariota had pretty much always had his mobility as a major part of his skill set – that is until Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts, when he was clearly limited by his hamstring injury.
But that lack of mobility did not keep Mariota from leading the Tennessee Titans to victory and probably earned him even more respect from his teammates and coaches than he already had.
“I know he was well protected and allowed him to stay in there better than most of the games we’ve been a part of. I think our line and backs and tight ends did a great job of keeping the pocket pretty well secured for him,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “There were a number of times he’s had to move a little bit, but not like he has in prior games where he’s had to escape and make something happen. I know it’s only his third year, but any experience he can get like he did with what he did last night certainly isn’t going to hurt him.”
Mariota stood in against the Colts defense and fired darts for a good part of the night, completing 23 of 32 throws for 306 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown to Taywan Taylor. He also had one interception that John Simon returned for a Colts touchdown.
“Marcus threw a lot of good footballs yesterday. They were where they were supposed to be and made some big plays for us,” Mularkey said.
Mariota said it was different, having to stick in the pocket rather than run around.
“It was a little different. That’s part of it. It’s a long season, you are going to have to play with some kind of nick or ding,” Mariota said. “I am just really happy for the guys. They did a great job of holding up in protection up front. Our receivers made a bunch of huge plays, just happy we were able to run the football and make some plays.”
In the locker room after the game, the talk was on the type of leadership Mariota provided in coming back form the hamstring injury at less than 100 percent and helping lead the Titans to a win.
“That’s Marcus Mariota. If he can play, he’s going to play. He is the leader of this team and today he showed it by coming out there and playing,” Titans tight end Delanie Walker said.
Running back Derrick Henry, who had a big night of his own with a 131 yards, including a 72-yard TD run at the end, also had high praise for his quarterback.
“Credit Marcus. He’s a tough guy. To come out there at not even 100 percent, to come out here and play and lead us to a win against a good division opponent. All credit goes to him. That shows what type of leader he is, what type of guy he is and how great he is,” Henry said.
Nowhere was that leadership perhaps on better display in Monday night’s game when after Mariota fired a 53-yard touchdown pass to Taywan Taylor to give the Titans the lead for good in the fourth quarter, he then calmly pushed teammate Quinton Spain aside to avoid the left guard getting a personal foul penalty attempting to retaliate for a roughing the passer flag on Mariota.
“That’s what leaders do. The linemen, they would like to do some things they could probably go to jail for when they see their quarterback get hit,” Mularkey said. “It’s very frustrating and I could understand why. He’s not just their teammate, this is a really close friend to them. They don’t like to see that take place. It happened too many times last night, our guys had had enough. But, I’ll give them credit. They maintained their composure and I give Marcus a lot of credit for immediately responding and(pulling him back, which is easier said than done.