This was a measuring stick game for the Tennessee Titans. The Chargers have been a thorn in this team's side for years, especially in the city of San Diego. This was a game that the Titans desperately needed to keep pace with Houston, but they just couldn't get it done today.
The game couldn't have started any worse for the Titans. Phillip Rivers shredded the Titans, hooking up with Antonio Gates and a host of others to jump out to a 16-0 lead. Nothing was going right.
Finally, Marcus Mariota hit his rhythm. He was able to toss two touchdown passes late in the second quarter to bring the Titans within five points at the half.
Tennessee opened in a no-huddle, hurry up look, which Mariota absolutely thrived in. It took the offense just a couple of minutes to work down the field as Mariota hit several intermediate passes. Mariota was able to finish the drive off with a draw up the middle that he bounce outside, just snagging the pylon.
But the Chargers -- with some help from some timely flags -- would answer. Twice the Titans bailed out the Chargers on third downs, the second one coming on the goalline on a questionable hold called on Da'Norris Searcy after a drive ending Jurrell Casey sack. Melvin Gordon would punch it in one play later. Chargers went back on top, 26-21.
And then it happened.
The call was a speed option right, which Mariota faked a pitch and proceeded to fumble. The Chargers picked it up and took it back for six. Why was Robiskie running a speed option play? Marcus was white hot and in a nice groove. I'll never understand.
The Titans came back out and immediately went three and out, but the defense was able to get a stop.
Mariota came back and hit Wright for a big catch and run, then fired into Walker for the score to bring it to 28-33. The Chargers rode Melvin Gordon into scoring position, but had to settle for a field goal.
The Titans found themselves down eight points with six minutes to go, but right on cue -- Mariota threw the game sealing pick. The Chargers took that one back for a touchdown too. It was just that kind of day. It reminded me all too much of the Colts game.
Melvin Gordon was the key cog for the Chargers. The Titans couldn't tackle him all day. He went for 194 yards on the ground, adding 65 more in receptions. It was easily the worst the defense has looked all season long.
However, this is another example of a game that the Titans probably win if Marcus takes care of the football. His three turnovers crippled the team today and spoiled what was turning out to be a really nice game for him. He put up four touchdowns, but that means nothing if you keep turning the ball over.
We truly saw the best and worst from Mariota today. The Titans will need only the best from him if they want to dig out of this hole.