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Opponent Breakdown: Mariota Leads Strong Titans Offense

Posted Dec 22, 2017

QB Marcus Mariota was selected No. 2 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and has taken command of the Tennessee offense.

The Rams have faced two excellent, mobile quarterbacks in their last two games and are about to take on another one in Week 16.

Now in his third year, quarterback Marcus Mariota — the No. 2 pick of the overall draft — has become one of the more dynamic young signal-callers in the league. He’s completed 62 percent of his passes in his career for 9.067 yards with 57 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.

His numbers have taken a dip in 2017, however. After throwing for 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year, Mariota has only 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions through 13 starts. He missed one game early in the season with a hamstring injury, and his rushing numbers are down a bit this season, too. After taking 60 carries for 349 yards last year, he’s at 47 for 228 yards this year. Mariota does have five rushing touchdowns, though.

“He hasn’t been healthy for a good number of the game this year — coming off a pretty good injury at the end of last year. So, it limited him in some of the games we’ve been in, which he’s a dual-threat and when you don’t have one of your weapons, it’s a little difficult on game planning,” Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said. “But, feel like he’s healthier going into these last two games and like the way he’s developed.”

Mularkey said one of the areas in which Mariota has come along the most is what he’s been able to do under center. Having attended Oregon under Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich’s offensive systems, Mariota was mainly in shotgun when he was slinging passes around the field for the Ducks.

“He came in here — there wasn’t a whole lot of having developed getting him under center,” Mularkey said. “Obviously, we’re doing more than he did when he first game in here. Put a lot on his shoulders and trust him and he makes a lot of good decisions for us.”

Those solid decisions came through in last weeks’ game against the 49ers, as Mariota completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns in the 25-23 loss. It was the first time Mariota had thrown for multiple touchdown passes in a game since Week 9.

“He’s very athletic. He can run around and actually throw the ball downfield too,” middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “People have been saying he’s a little banged up or whatever, but he’s still able to get out and get away from pressure, and make plays downfield. You definitely see the maturity that he’s gotten over the years and he definitely presents a big challenge for us for sure.”

Rams cornerback Troy Hill attended Oregon alongside Mariota at Oregon and knows how the quarterback can affect a game.

“He was great at Oregon. I mean he fit the system so well and he’s fast,” Hill said. “He has all the intangibles, he can make every throw on the field, and he can do a lot. So I have nothing but respect for him.”

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said L.A. especially has to worry about Mariota’s throwing prowess when the quarterback gets pressured.

“I’m impressed with him, especially when you pressure him,” Phillips said. “You get some pressure on him, he throws it really well. He’s a good young quarterback that can do some things that way.

“They’ve got a good group and it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”