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Keeping Up With Marcus Mariota: Week 5, 2018

Mariota’s stats were extremely underwhelming, but was he actually that bad?

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

I for sure need to stop picking the Titans to win games now. I’m ruining what could have been a 5-0 start to the year.

With that out of the way, welcome to another edition of Keeping Up With Marcus Mariota. Last week, Mariota completed 14 of 26 passes at Buffalo for 129 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception for a 51.6 passer rating.

Obviously, the expectation is Mariota played a bad game after playing at a high level the previous week against the Eagles. But by looking at the incompletions he tossed, something doesn’t look right. So here’s what happened on all 12 of Mariota’s incompletions:

1. Thrown in the area of Jonnu Smith who was tightly covered.

2. Late, behind Derrick Henry.

3. Corey Davis stopped running, was contacted.

4. Was trying to throw the ball away under intense pressure, but the arc of his pass meant the ball was nearly intercepted.

5. His actual interception. Nick Williams completely let the defensive back come through his window and pick the pass off.

6. Wide of Luke Stocker

7. Through Taywan Taylor’s hands on a catch he should’ve made.

8. Pressure disrupts his pass to Dion Lewis.

9. Batted at the line of scrimmage looking for Corey Davis.

10. Thrown away under pressure from Tremaine Edmunds.

11. Jump ball to Sharpe, not a smart decision, fortunate to get away with an incompletion.

12. Accurate pass to Nick Williams that should’ve been caught for a touchdown but was instead dropped.

So looking at Mariota’s incompletions, 9 of his 12 came from pass disruptions, a lack of separation, bad receiver play, drops, miscommunications, and throwing the ball away. If Williams catches the touchdown pass, we might not be talking about how “bad” Mariota played on Sunday.

Another concern is how conservative Matt LaFleur’s play calling was. Sure, Buffalo’s defense has some quality players, but Tennessee only attempted four passes of at least 16 air yards. Perhaps LaFleur doesn’t trust the limited receiving corps, but With Corey Davis lighting it up downfield the previous week, it’s baffling.

With that said, let’s highlight some notable passes Mariota threw on Sunday and briefly analyze them.

Here, Nick Williams is running a simple go route against zone coverage, yet he couldn’t even do that correctly. Mariota gets clean protection—though really it’s hard not to when you’re releasing the ball that quickly—and it should be a pass that Williams can catch. But Williams has no spatial awareness on this play, so he has no idea the defensive back is coming into his window. Williams gets overwhelmed, screwing his quarterback over as the pass is picked off.

The Bills’ play-by-play listed this as an overthrown ball, but to me, this is one Taywan Taylor should’ve caught for a touchdown. Mariota is under heavy pressure this time and is able to get the ball off just before getting hit.

I’ve mentioned in the past that Taylor’s catch radius is extremely limited. He’s extremely effective as a screen and underneath receiver, but when asked to expand his frame he’s been a major letdown. He’s asked to slightly contort his body to make this catch, but instead it goes through his hands and ends up as a dropped touchdown.

And speaking of dropped touchdowns, Nick Williams ultimately sealed his fate in Tennessee with a massive drop that would’ve given the Titans a lead trailing 10-6. Mariota extends the play and Williams does a nice job of breaking open, but the ball inexplicably goes through his hands on the Titans’ second dropped touchdown of the game.

Marcus Mariota wasn’t spectacular against the Bills, but the play calling was way too conservative, the receivers could barely separate, and when they did they either dropped the pass or were not on the same page as Mariota. I thought he played a solid game in spite of the situation around him, and it’s on LaFleur to correct his mistakes (from an otherwise solid season as offensive coordinator) and for the Titans to consider trading for a receiver.

Still, at least we got to see Mariota leap over a defender.

That was awesome.