Sports, Thrill of Victory

Mariota leads clutch, come-from-behind win over Lions

Marcus Mariota led the Titans to a comeback victory in Detroit in Week 2. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

How about those Tennessee Titans?

Facing a six point deficit with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Marcus Mariota led a 13-play, 83-yard drive that culminated in touchdown pass on 4th down to wide receiver Andre Johnson, giving the Titans a 16-15 edge and eventual victory over the Detroit Lions.

Johnson faced double coverage on the play. In fact, the pass from Mariota floated above the back of Tahir Whitehead, past the arm of Rafael Bush, and into the hands of Johnson for his 69th career touchdown.

Marcus Mariota led the Titans to a comeback victory in Detroit in Week 2. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Marcus Mariota led the Titans to a comeback victory in Detroit in Week 2. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

The reception was a nice addition to Johnson’s Hall-of-Fame résumé.

More so, however, this come-from-behind win goes against the defining characteristics of the 2015 Titans — a team unable to secure fourth quarter leads or complete fourth quarter comebacks. 

Mariota had a near perfect performance in the go-ahead drive. He generated positive yardage on every first down play; he threw passes to five different players; and he completed all nine of his pass attempts for 74 yards.

By the game’s end Mariota had totaled 238 passing yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 102.8.

Running back DeMarco Murray, rookie offensive tackle Jack Conklin, and cornerback Perrish Cox also had noteworthy performances.

Murray totaled 145 yards on 19 touches, six of which came during the Titans’ go-ahead drive. Conklin, despite making a poor block that resulted in a first-quarter safety, finished the game as the Titans’ top graded offensive player according to Pro Football Focus. And Cox sealed the victory when he intercepting Matthew Stafford on the Lions’ final drive.   

Tight end Delanie Walker, who caught Mariota’s first touchdown pass at the start of the fourth quarter, was very optimistic after the game.

Mike Mularkey had to be impressed with his team's comeback victory in Detroit. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Mike Mularkey had to be impressed with his team’s comeback victory in Detroit. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

“[This win is] very big. This is the first day I’ve seen us finish a game the way we did, especially coming into a hostile environment like this in Detroit… Basically what it says to me is, this is a different team. That mindset we have is we’re not going to give up until the final whistle blows.”

This win certainly gives reason for optimism. The Titans won three games in 2015; it is exciting that they already have a win after Week 2 of the 2016 season. 

We should, however, consider opportune factors that contributed to the victory. 

For starters, the Lions lost 138 yards on 17 penalties. Two of those penalties negated a touchdown: a 14-yard run by Ameer Abdullah in the first quarter, and an 11-yard catch by Anquan Boldin in the second quarter.

Moreover, the Lions only had two active linebackers by the fourth quarter. Kyle Von Noy and Antwione Williams were sidelined due to injury, which required that defensive end Brandon Copeland play right-side linebacker.

Thereafter the middle-of-the-field opened up to Mariota. In fact, on the go-ahead drive, seven of Mariota’s nine passes were thrown to that area

Perhaps we should therefore see this win as a building block for next week, when the Titans face the Oakland Raiders at Nissan Stadium. At least that’s how offensive tackle Taylor Lewan sees it. He’s ready for more success.

“Last year, we won [the season opener] and everyone overreacted,’’ Lewan said. “The past two years we haven’t won two games in a row and we need to break that streak.

“I don’t think we have arrived until we’ve won the Super Bowl. So I don’t want anybody to overreact to this. The team played together and we won, and it was awesome to get a win. But we have to now find a way to win two games in a row.”