The Tennessee Titans were looking to get started towards the playoffs when they ran into the Houston Texans buzzsaw, led by rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. The loss that hurt them even worse was one that happened during the game. Marcus Mariota injured his hamstring in the second half and did not return. At that point in the game, it did not matter what he did or who replaced him because the game was over, but the Titans and their fans were wondering how serious the injury was and if Mariota would miss any time. Well, he ended up missing the Miami game this past Sunday and that meant the Titans would have to turn to veteran backup Matt Cassel. Everyone saw the performance of Cassel when he replaced Mariota in the Houston game. He did not look as prepared as maybe he should have been and that helped lead to two interceptions. After it was found out that Cassel was the starter for the Miami game, plenty wanted to believe that with a week of preparation that he would be better than he was in relief of Mariota. Well, things did not quite work out the way the Titans and the fans wanted. Cassel’s week of practice helped the Titans produce a woeful 10 points as they lost to the Dolphins 16-10 in Miami. After watching that game, there has to be no question of the worth of Mariota to the Titans organization.
The Titans offense was ugly last week and that’s being kind. The had some turnovers and there was a questionable call or two, but none of that was any excuse for the ugly play that happened. The Titans offense looked extremely limited without Mariota. Just to give you an example, the Titans were using Mariota in the running game a little more this season. He was making great plays as sometimes defenses would forget about him and he would scoot out there for at least five or so yards at least. While he did not carry the ball all the time on the read option style plays, the threat of him carrying the football helped the running game. That may not seem like something the Titans running game needed because they were good running the football last season, but this year the running game has not been the same. The Titans have not gotten the same push up front as they did last season and that has limited the amount of holes DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry have had to run through. With Cassel in the game, the defense had less to worry about in the passing game and that helped the Dolphins defense put the clamps on the Titans offense.
The running game was definitely affected by the loss of Mariota, but the passing game was affected as well. With the running game struggling at times, Mariota and the passing game have had to do a little bit more. Mariota has shown that his arm is good enough to hit the short, intermediate and deep passes. His favorite target, tight end Delanie Walker, has been featured at all three levels and although Mariota seems to be a little off in his passes sometimes, he makes it work more times than naught. Along with him figuring it out in the passing game, Mariota also has a good amount of zip on his passes along with some touch and most importantly, he has timing with the first-team offense. Cassel tried to fill in for Mariota, but he clearly showed that he does not have what Mariota has. Of course no one expected him to be Mariota, but you could have expected a little more arm strength. On one play, he tried to throw it deep and it seemed like he flung it as far as he could. The problem with that was the pass floated out there and was nowhere in the vicinity of wide receiver Trent Taylor as he would have had a chance to catch the football with a good throw. The loss of Mariota shrunk the field and made the Titans offense not as explosive in the deep portion of the field.
For the Titans, they got to see what life was like without Marcus Mariota and they probably did not like it at all. The offense was less explosive, less creative and overall made for an easy target for the Dolphins defense. The hope is for the Titans is that he plays on Monday. Because if he does not play, then there could be a repeat of what all Titans fans were subjected to on last Sunday.
More stories you might like