NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota sat out his team’s 16-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins with an injured hamstring, the third-year pro out of Oregon decided to make a statement in his return to the field at home in the national spot light of Monday Night Football.
It was not your traditional Mariota performance but, with his ailment clearly still bothering him, the Titans signal-caller took to the air successfully from the pocket and let his backfield carry the load in the running game in a 36-22 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
To break a streak of 11-consecutive losses at the hands of their AFC South divisional rivals, Tennessee rallied back from a 10-point deficit and Mariota found a wide-open Taywan Taylor for a 53-yard bomb with 5:29 left in the final quarter to seal the game. The touchdown catch would be the first of the rookie wide receiver’s NFL career.
Mariota had his fourth-career 300+ yard passing day against Indy, finishing 306 yards on 23-of-32 completions, a touchdown pass and an interception.
“You know, I thought it was a great call,” Mariota said post-game. “We ended up getting a look that we had wanted in practice and Taywan (Taylor) just did the rest. A guy that is that electric, that fast and can do those types of things, he is a huge weapon for you.”
— Buck Reising (@BuckReising) October 17, 2017
The Titans defense could not force a stop to begin the game and allowed Colts backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, filling in for Andrew Luck who has yet to make his 2017 season debut, to march up and down the field with ease. Indianapolis scored on their first three possessions and led the game 13-9 at the half.
Brissett completed seven of his first 10 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. At the half, the second-year signal caller from NC State was 12-of-17 for 119 yard through the air and the score.
But Tennesee defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s unit rebounded after the intermission after linebacker Wesley Woodyard recovered a fumble by Colts tight end Jack Doyle and later forced a crucial turnover on downs, running Brissett out of bounds short of a first down on fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 13-yard line with just 2:19 remaining in the game.
“This 31-year old still got a little wheels,” Woodyard joked with the press on his defense getting the stop on the critical fourth down. “You just have to make a play to get our team (defense) off the field and lucky be for me, I was blessed to be the one to make it.”
The Titans responded with a back-breaking five-play, 87-yard drive that was capped off by running back Derrick Henry’s 72-yard touchdown run to give him the first 100-yard rushing day of the Heisman winner’s NFL career. Henry would finish 19 carries for 131 yards and that on the ground while his starting counterpart DeMarco Murray conrtibuted 40 yards on 12 carries and a three-yard rushing score of his own with 10:19 to play in the game to give Tennessee a 22-19 lead.
“It was great,” Murray told the media in the locker room after the win. “Obviously, it started with the offensive line. We just kept pounding away, you know taking it one play at a time, one run at a time. You know it was tough early on, but we continued to just stay with it. (Terry) Robiskie kept calling the run game and the offensive line kept doing it. Derrick (Henry) and myself, you know, found a crease here and there and he popped one late. That was huge for us. It sealed the victory, so it was great for us.”
Prior to Murray’s rushing score, the Titans had relied on five-straight made field goals from kicker Ryan Succop. The Titans took a 3-0 lead when Succop’s nailed the field goal attempt from 48 yards out to make his 47th in a row from inside the 50-yard line, good for a new NFL record.
In the first half, Tennessee managed three field-goal drives while the running game continued to languish. At the midpoint, Murray and Henry had only combined for 15 carries and 44 yards for an average of 2.9 yards per tote. And, after an early second-half pick-six by Indy linebacker John Simon, the Titans found themselves trailing 19-9.
Indianapolis took six plays to go six yards after an intentional grounding call on Brissett neutered their drive but set kicker Adam Vinatieri up for a 52-yard field goal that the future Hall-of-Famer made with ease to tie it up at 22 with 7:27 remaining.
Four plays later, Taylor found space for the 53-yard score.
The Titans now move into a first with the Jacksonville Jaguars (Titans own the tie-breaker over the Jags) and the Houston Texans, who all sit atop the division at 3-3. The Colts reside in the the basement of the AFC South at 2-4.
Up Next: Tennessee travels to take on the 0-6 Cleveland Browns.