Mariota, who threw 26 touchdown passes to just nine interceptions a year ago, already has 10 picks in nine games (he missed the Miami game with a hamstring injury) this season, thanks to a four-interception performance in Thursday night’s 40-17 loss in Pittsburgh.
Not all the interceptions were completely on Mariota, but the quarterback does seem to be off his game enough that the consistency that was there in 2016 has been lacking at times this season.
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey admitted there are things Mariota could have done better Thursday night.
“Probably, when you turn the ball over four times, whether it’s you throwing it or not throwing it, things he could’ve done a lot better. Yeah, there’s some things he could’ve done better,” Mularkey said.
The coach also said that the interception increase isn’t solely on Mariota, citing that his receivers – most notably rookie Corey Davis – have to be in better position on their routes in the Titans’ timing offense.
“A variety of reasons, and not solely all his responsibility. I think whether it’s been pressure, had more pressure, more blitzes, more making him move, more guys needing to make plays, more guys being where that ball, like last night,” he said. “That’s the thing about zone coverage, that’s how Kevin Byard makes these interceptions, they just happen to be in the right place in the right time and that’s kind of what happened with some of his interceptions.”
Mariota is also way off in terms of the number of touchdown passes he threw in 2016, as he has only eight this season. Again, there have been extenuating circumstances, as Delanie Walker dropped a pass in the end zone vs. the Steelers, and the week before that, Rishard Matthews dropped a potential touchdown against the Bengals.
“Other than the ones we’re dropping? No, we’re in the red zone more this year than we were last year, the high red,” he said. “Earlier in the year, we had failed to get down in the tighter red where more of his throws were coming that he threw last year. We just weren’t down there as much as we were a year ago and I think that has a lot to do with why his production’s off from a year ago.”
Despite the struggles, Mularkey remains supremely confident in his quarterback.
“We’re asking him to do a lot, a lot more than I’ve been around. We trust him to do that. I know he’s thrown more. I’m glad he’s our quarterback,” Mularkey said. “I know this, we still have a chance to win every game with him no matter what the score is, where it is in the game. Nobody every talks about how accurate he is in some of the throws he does make, all you guys keep asking me are about the throws he doesn’t. There’s a lot of good throws that he makes every Sunday, very tight window throws.”
It was a rough night for rookie receiver Corey Davis, who was the target on two of Marcus Mariota’s four interceptions Thursday.
Davis had a hand in at least one of the interceptions as the ball bounced off him and into a Steelers defender’s hands. The rookie, who missed five games with a hamstring injury, is getting on-the-job training as the season goes, which leads to growing pains, head coach Mike Mularkey said.
“This is really his, legitimately, his third game. I don’t know if he’s got a month of practices in him in the NFL, maybe a little more than that,” Mularkey said. “The number of reps he’s getting is nothing but good for him. I don’t think we’re overloading him by any means. I think he has shown signs of doing some good things based on making some mistakes earlier, he’s not making them again. There’s nothing better than doing it and he’s getting a lot of reps to do that.”
REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS
—PASSING OFFENSE: F — Four interceptions pretty much ruined anything good here. There were a few good things, mainly a 75-yard TD throw to Rishard Matthews by Marcus Mariota to start the second half. There were other issues as well, as Delanie Walker dropped a sure TD pass.
—RUSHING OFFENSE: F — The Titans had 52 yards on the ground against the Steelers, including just 10 from DeMarco Murray. The run game has to get going and must do better than that for the Titans offense to be effective.
—PASS DEFENSE: F — The Steelers scored on six straight possessions as one point, and Ben Roethlisberger had four TD passes, three of them to Antonio Brown. The Titans held up well early in the game, but by the end had no answers for the Pittsburgh pass attack.
—RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Titans held Le’Veon Bell to 46 yards on the ground, but the Steelers seemed to have little interest in running the football, instead choosing to gash the Titans through the air.
—SPECIAL TEAMS: D — Ryan Succop had a 48-yard field-goal try blocked. He later made a 44-yarder. Special teams didn’t have the field-position changing effect Thursday that it has had most of the year.
—COACHING: F — Hard to give the coaching staff a passing grade in this one when there were so many breakdowns in all three phases of the game. The lone passing mark they get is that they did keep the Titans in the game for two-and-a-half quarters, despite several blown opportunities and mistakes.