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Keeping Up With Marcus Mariota: Week 14, 2018

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For once in his career Mariota was the bus driver to a Titans win, and that’s gotta be relaxing for him.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Henry picked an excellent time to remind everyone of what he can do. After entering the night with 474 yards in 12 games, Henry exploded for 238 yards and four touchdowns. Indeed, he was the catalyst for the Titans’ 30-9 blowout victory over the Jaguars, their fourth straight win against their AFC South rival.

Now, as a writer for Music City Miracles I have the creative freedom to write whatever I want and publish it whenever I can, so this article on Marcus Mariota (and the others, actually) are of my own doing. Mariota, for a change, played second fiddle to someone else on the offense, completing 18 of 24 passes for 162 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception.

Mariota’s performance in this one didn’t matter because of Henry’s insane night, but a few of his throws had me wondering if that hand injury was still affecting him. And indeed, Mariota was wearing a glove on his throwing hand.

I’m not going to go into great detail for this week’s edition of Keeping Up With Marcus Mariota since his impact in this game was minimal, so let’s take a look at some throws where his hand injury was clearly affecting him.

gamepass.nfl.com

An interception caused by bad accuracy is easier to stomach than an interception caused by bad decision making, and the pass on this rollout just doesn’t feel right. First off, it’s wobbling, which is never a good sign. Second, Tajae Sharpe is wide open and this sails over his head and goes into the arms of rookie Ronnie Harrison for the interception.

I guarantee Mariota hits this throw without the hand injury. This is an easy throw to make, and while he has a better gripe on the football, it’s obvious he’s not 100% comfortable.

Let’s take a look at another example of the hand injury messing up Mariota’s game.

gamepass.nfl.com

While this is under thrown, Taywan Taylor plays the ball awkwardly at the catch point. I’m not really sure what his approach is about, but that’s besides the point. He’s open downfield and if he’s lead better, this is a possible touchdown.

You can see from Mariota’s throwing motion that something’s up. It just doesn’t seem natural, and it’s a throw he was hitting with little problems last year. The motion just looks like he’s imitating Philip Rivers but without the success. Again, though, it’s hard to imagine him not completing this pass with a healthy hand.

gamepass.nfl.com

Let’s end this brief analysis with a happy ending. This is a nice throw against the blitz to tight end Anthony Firkser, who has looked intriguing on the field. Mariota lays it out perfectly and Firkser uses strong hands to haul the catch in for the first down.

So overall, Marcus Mariota managed the game for the most part, and he deserves credit for audibling into the play that became Henry’s 99-yard touchdown run. But at the same time he had several awful misses that indicate that his throwing hand still has a ways to go before it reaches 100% comfort.

That’s a concern for the Titans because Henry probably won’t have this good of a statistical performance next week (very hard to get 230+ 4 TD consistently though), putting pressure on Tennessee’s passing game to get something done. If Mariota was healthy, this wouldn’t be an issue at all, but it’s evident that he’s not, and that’s something to watch as the Titans get an extended rest for the rest of the week.

But I digress. If Derrick Henry can show off this much power and consistency, that puts less pressure on the team and they don’t have to pass every play. And for a team looking to finish 10-6 on the season and sneak into the playoffs, who knows what happens? I just hope Mariota’s hand heals in time for the road game against the Giants in Week 15, because that would be gigantic for Tennessee’s playoff chances.