The Tennessee Titans are at a critical juncture of the season, with their offense in critical condition.
Lots of the focus has been aimed at quarterback Marcus Mariota who continues to be plagued with interception issues, including two more from Sunday’s loss in Arizona. Mariota now has 14 interceptions this season, second highest in the NFL behind only Browns rookie Deshone Kizer.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey admits a little bit of what has been suspected all along – that Mariota’s health and dealing with injuries have played a role in his inconsistency and his inability to build on his sensational second season.
Mularkey said that early in the year, the broken fibula Mariota spent the off-season recovering from was a factor in his play. Since then, there have been other injuries – a hamstring early in the season and a knee injury suffered Sunday – that have taken their toll on the Titans quarterback.
“Maybe earlier in the year I’d say yes to that,” Mularkey said when asked if the leg injury was a factor in Mariota’s not consistently stepping into his throws. “I don’t know as much now as much as the injuries he’s sustained during this year affecting those, like this last one.”
The latest injury, a sprain, is to his left leg, the one where he already wears a knee brace. The injury took place on a first-quarter scramble and a hit from the Cardinals’ Antoine Bethea where Mariota’s slide was awkward and his leg twisted underneath him on the hit. While Mariota did not miss a play, it did limit some of what the Titans could do for the rest of the game.
Also, he will be limited Wednesday in practice. Mariota was just 16 of 31 on the day for 159 yards and two costly interceptions. The Titans as a team managed just one scoring drive and 204 yards of total offense.
“It affected a number of things. It limited us game-plan wise, what we had in our game plan, more than you can imagine,” Mularkey said. “Yeah, I think it did. I know it was on his mind. He missed some throws he usually doesn’t miss. I definitely think it had a little bit of an effect, it certainly did in the play calling.”
Mariota was visibly frustrated in his post-game press conference Sunday, even to the point of telling reporters he was “pissed off.”
Mularkey said he believes his quarterback was frustrated by the loss, frustrated by his struggles and frustrated by yet another injury.
“I just think he was frustrated by getting hurt again. If you look at the play, we’re just fortunate he’s not hurt worse that he was,” Mularkey said. “I think he’s frustrated by that and just frustrated that we had a chance to win all the way up until the end and we just couldn’t find a way to do it like we have in past games. He’s just so competitive, he’s a poor loser. You feel like you have a chance to win, you feel like you’re part of it. It was solely not him, it was all of us. We said that this morning, offensively, we’ve all got to somehow get better at what we’re doing.”
The Titans appear to be fortunate regarding left tackle Taylor Lewan’s back injury. The injury, which forced Lewan to exit in the first half Sunday, is not serious, according to Mularkey, though the left tackle might be limited in Wedneday’s practice due to back spasms.
Linebacker Derrick Morgan, who was out Sunday with a sprained knee, won’t practice Wednesday, but has not been ruled out for Sunday. Also, tight end Phillip Supernaw won’t practice Wednesday due to an ankle injury.