Mariota salvages miserable day, Titans’ playoff hopes
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Marcus Mariota had never played in weather colder than 75 degrees during high school, and never in temperatures bellows 40 degrees during his college days at Oregon.
That’s what happens when you’re born and raised in Hawaii.
So when he took the field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, and it was 1 degree with a wind chill of minus-9, perhaps it made sense the Tennessee Titans quarterback would get off to a chilly start.
He was certainly hot by the end.
Mariota shrugged off an early fumble and interception to lead Tennessee to a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against Kansas City. Then, after the Titans failed to convert a 2-point conversion and got the ball back, he drove them into range for Ryan Succop to kick a 53-yarder for a 19-17 victory.
“Marcus did a great job of keeping everybody positive and letting us know that we’re going to go out there and make great plays,” Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews said. “The defense did a great job getting us the ball back. Special teams did a great job containing their returners.
“It was an overall team win today.”
Mariota was 19 of 33 for 241 yards, and his completion percentage of 57.6 was among the worst games of his career. He also didn’t throw a touchdown pass — something that’s happened only nine times — in a game that was eminently forgettable until the end of the fourth quarter.
The turnovers were especially surprising for a quarterback who rarely makes a mistake.
The first came as he was trying to escape the pass rush, and defensive tackle Dontari Poe got his hand on the ball. It squirted free downfield and the Chiefs recovered.
“It was one of those deals,” Mariota said. “I was tucking the ball away. He ended up swiping at it and got it. That’s going to happen. Guys, they get paid a lot of money to do that. He made a great play.”
He chalked his interception up to being “a good play,” too, though that may be an understatement. Early in the third quarter, Mariota was making a relatively safe pass to tight end Delanie Walker when safety Ron Parker came flying in for the one-handed pick-off.
“Really, that team does a great job of creating turnovers,” Mariota said. “That’s what they do. I just think the way we were able to battle back says a lot about this team.”
So does the final drive. The Titans got the ball back with 63 seconds left, and Mariota hit Matthews for 19 yards before finding Walker on two more completions. That moved the ball within range of Succop, who knocked through the winner against his former team.
“I thought he made some really good throws,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said of his quarterback. “I thought he played well, made some really good decisions with some of the runs we had, zone reads. Very good decisions. I thought he played well.”
As for the weather, well, Mariota wasn’t willing to admit he was cold. Asked how he had prepared for it, he replied: “The same. I wasn’t thinking about it.”
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