Sports, Thrill of Victory

Mularkey and Mariota lead Titans to stunning win in New Orleans

One week ago, I said that the season had slipped away for the Tennessee Titans.

Then head coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired. Then it was announced that Marcus Mariota would be back under center against the New Orleans Saints.

And then the Titans went into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and fought their way back to score a 34-28 overtime win over the red-hot Saints.

Mike Mularkey made an impressive debut as Titans interim head coach. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

Mike Mularkey made an impressive debut as Titans interim head coach. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

Titans fans are still pinching themselves.

It didn’t seem possible that the same Titans team that took the field in Houston in Week 8 could do what they did in Week 9. Except that it wasn’t the same team.

Tennessee had new leaders in its two most important positions: head coach and quarterback. And those two certainly didn’t let the team down.

Interim head coach Mike Mularkey got as much out of this team as he possibly could. He got the type of grit and fire that we hadn’t seen from the Titans since the Week 1 demolishing of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

That’s your job as a coach. Be the type of leader that guys want to fight for. The Titans could have laid down and accepted a seventh straight defeat trailing midway through the fourth quarter.

They didn’t. They fought back and won the game. Mularkey deserves a world of credit for that.

Of course, so does the new leader at quarterback. After missing weeks of action due to injury, Marcus Mariota returned with a vengeance.

The stats themselves were impressive enough. Mariota threw for 371 yards, four touchdowns and had no interceptions. It doesn’t get much better than that at the NFL level.

Delanie Walker came up huge for Marcus Mariota in the passing game. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

But Mariota’s performance was about more than stats. Once again, like he did in Week 1, the rookie looked like a veteran in leading the Titans down the field on several crucial drives.

Everyone knew that if Drew Brees and the Saints offense got the ball in overtime, things probably wouldn’t go well for the Titans. Home teams just seem to have that extra edge in overtime games.

Not on this day. Not with Mariota running the show. He was as calm as it gets in marching the Titans down the field on the first possession of overtime.

The Titans scored, and Brees never touched the ball. It was the perfect scenario.

Keep in mind that this was the same Titans team that scored 36 total points in their previous four games. They scored 34 on Sunday.

Perhaps the two guys with the initials ‘MM’ are onto something.

It’s way too early to declare that Mularkey should be the coach of this team, but it’s not too early to understand that Mariota is special. You just don’t see a lot of quarterbacks come into the league and do what he’s been able to do when healthy.

Now at 2-6, the Titans are far from being where they want to be. However, it was clear a week ago that they weren’t heading in the direction that they wanted to go.

One win doesn’t change an entire season. But it can change a team.

The Titans were a changed team on Sunday thanks to the M&M connection. Fans can only hope that this duo can keep it going.