Marcus Mariota Shows Improvement in Second Start


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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — **Not everything went right in Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota’s Nissan Stadium debut.

For starters, the coach-to-quarterback communication device malfunctioned on the first drive. On the team’s second possession of the game, Mariota guided a beauty of a drive only to see running back Dexter McCluster drop a sure touchdown.

Mariota didn’t blink. He kept playing, and turned in another impressive performance.

“After the first two plays,’’ Mariota said with a smile, “I kind of went out and had to revert to Pop Warner, just running over to the coach, getting the play and running back to the huddle.”

The way Mariota handled it all left his head coach even more impressed with the rookie.

“Most guys would panic at that point, but (Mariota) handled himself like a pro. He was calm,’’ coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “If we make two catches, he’s got a touchdown and a big first down on that opening drive, so he played well.”

In three series in Sunday night’s preseason game against the Rams, Mariota completed 5-of-8 passes for 59 yards, with a passer rating of 84.9. He left the game with the Titans leading the Rams 10-0.

Mariota, the team’s second overall pick, hit receiver Kendall Wright with his first throw of the night – a 16-yard completion.

His best pass of the game came in the first quarter when he rolled to his right and hit tight end Craig Stevens with a 35-yard completion down the field. It set in motion an 8-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 27-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop.

On the third down play before Succop’s field goal, Mariota found McCluster open in the end zone, but McCluster wasn’t able to bring the ball in.

“You know that happens,’’ Mariota said with a smile. “I just tell him, “Go ahead and catch the next one, and that’s all you can really do.”

The Titans were once against encouraged by what they saw from Mariota, the second overall pick of the draft who threw just one interception in 16 training camp practices.

Mariota completed 7-of-8 passes for 94 yards with one touchdown and one interception in last week’s preseason opener against the Falcons.

In two preseason games, Mariota has completed 12-of-16 passes (75 percent) for 152 yards. His passer rating is 78.4 while working against NFL first-team defenses for the first time.

Mariota showed poise in the pocket again on Sunday, hanging in the pocket to find open receivers.

“That’s what he’s done in practice,’’ Whisenhunt said. “He’s worked hard at doing some of those things, but he’s also a very good player. So it’s encouraging to see this.”

The Titans travel to Kansas City on Friday for their third preseason contest.

Mariota said his first game at Nissan Stadium was a memorable one.

“It was special,’’ Mariota said. “You know the fans are so passionate, the community itself. You know the love for the Titans, it’s awesome and it makes us as players extra motivated. I think it’s a special moment for us.”

The Titans take on the St. Louis Rams in their 2015 preseason home opener at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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