Sports, Thrill of Victory

Marcus Mariota achieves perfection in his Titans debut

“We shouldn’t expect Marcus Mariota to be perfect early on.”

I said this before the season started. A lot of other people said it as well. After all, when you’re dealing with a rookie quarterback, mistakes are going to happen.

Clearly Mariota is not your typical rookie quarterback.

The No. 2 pick in this year’s NFL draft had a perfect start to his career in completely dissecting the Tampa Bay defense, as the Tennessee Titans rolled to a shocking 42-14 victory.

Yes, statistically speaking, Mariota was perfect. He finished the game with a passer rating of 158.3, the absolute highest that a quarterback can have. Mariota only had three incompletions on the day and threw for four touchdowns.

Think about that. He had more touchdowns than incompletions. Oh, and all of those touchdowns came in the first half.

Marcus Mariota was in complete control of the Titans offense from the very first snap. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

Marcus Mariota was in complete control of the Titans offense from the very first snap. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

You could not have asked for a better start from Mariota and the Titans. Things clicked for this team right from the very beginning, and it made for a long day for fellow rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.

While both Mariota and Winston entered the first week of the season in the same exact spot, there’s no doubt who leaves it with a world of momentum.

Winston threw an interception that the Titans returned for a touchdown on his first throw from scrimmage and saw his team finish the day completely demoralized.

Mariota orchestrated a quick touchdown on his first drive and never looked back in leading the Titans to a higher point total than they had in any game last season (28 against the Cleveland Browns).

The Mariota vs. Winston debate is long from decided, but the former issued an emphatic statement with his first career NFL start.

Watching the Titans dominate the game from start to finish was a thing of beauty. It was a scene that Titans fans haven’t seen since, ironically, the opening game of the 2014 season.

Tennessee went into Kansas City in Week 1 last year and delivered a convincing 27-10 win to start the campaign on quite the high.

Of course, we all know how that turned out.

But there’s no reason to fear the same type of outcome this year. We all thought Mariota had potential, however, there’s no way that you can write off his first game as a fluke. Sure, the Bucs are a bad team. But not just anyone can walk onto the field and achieve perfection in their professional debut.

Titans fans are hoping to see plenty of more touchdowns from Mariota this season. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

Titans fans are hoping to see plenty of more touchdowns from Mariota this season. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

That’s what Mariota did. He looked more like a veteran with 10 years of experience rather than a rookie.

The competition will get tougher, and the Titans will struggle to score 42 points again in a game this season. However, that doesn’t mean that fans of this franchise shouldn’t be optimistic.

The Titans needed a strong performance to erase the memories of last year. To say that they had a strong performance against the Bucs would be a massive understatement.

Everyone thought it would take a while for Mariota to guide the Titans back to the top of the AFC South. After only one week, he’s done just that thanks to a Titans win and losses from the Colts, Texans, and Jaguars.

Unfortunately, there’s still 15 more games to go, and there’s a good chance that those standings will change a bit.

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe, just maybe, Mariota’s perfect debut is a sign of things to come. He made history by becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw four touchdowns in his first half of play, so who’s to say that he won’t allow the Titans to make history in going from worst to first.

I know, I know. Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves with the Super Bowl talk. It’s pretty early for that.

But make no mistake about it, this is a different Titans team.

And if Mariota’s first real showing is the start of something special, that Super Bowl talk may not be all that silly a few years from now.