Marcus Mariota has not been 100 percent healthy in quite a while – if ever – this season.
But the Tennessee Titans having all their chips in the middle of the table trying to secure a playoff spot Sunday, Mariota willed himself to run more and the Titans into the postseason.
Mariota’s 13-yard scramble that essentially sealed the game, complete with a stiff arm of Jaguars safety Barry Church has in the past couple of days become a symbol of the Titans’ and Mariota’s grit as they head into the playoffs against Kansas City on Saturday.
Mariota’s numbers were not as good this season with 13 touchdown passes to 15 interceptions after a breakout season in 2016.
But Mariota brought the running element back into his game, partially out of necessary with 10 carries for 60 yards. Mariota admits that he is healthier than he was, but not 100 percent. His running more Sunday was a mix of being a bit healthier from leg, knee and hamstring injuries, and also out of plain necessity to spark a sluggish Titans offense.
“Probably a mixture of both. At this point in time, every guy is probably not going to feel 100 percent. It’s just that time of the year,” Mariota said. “With the magnitude of these games, you’ve got to win these games. You’re going to find a way to make a play and hopefully help your team win.”
Teammates after the game said the swagger with which Mariota finished that play against Church looked like a sign that Mariota had his mojo back. The quarterback said that’s just how he plays, especially with a lot on the line.
“It was just me being me. Again, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. This is the time in the season where you’ve just got to lay it all on the line,” Mariota said.
Running back DeMarco Murray was out of practice with a knee injury again on Tuesday, but Coach Mike Mularkey did not rule him out for the playoff game yet.
Also, cornerback Brice McCain was limited with a hamstring injury, while cornerback Kalan Reed and tight end Jonnu Smith practiced fully. Both are in the concussion protocol, but could be cleared Wednesday.