Winston outplayed by Mariota, Titans rout Bucs 42-14
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The No. 1 pick was clearly the second-best quarterback when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota made their highly anticipated NFL debuts.
Mariota threw for 209 yards and four touchdowns without an interception Sunday to lead the Tennessee Titans to a 42-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He joined Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton as the only players to throw four or more TD passes in their first NFL game. All four of Mariota’s TD passes came in the first half.
Winston, the No. 1 overall pick and 2013 Heisman winner, did something rare, too, becoming the first quarterback since Brett Favre in 1991 to have his first NFL pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
“I believe if I didn’t throw that pick, it would have been a different game,” Winston said. “That first drive killed us, but we’re going to bounce back. It’s one game, it’s something to learn from.”
Winston was 16 of 33 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Titans sacked him three times.
Mariota finished 13 of 16 with no interceptions. The No. 2 pick was sacked twice before being replaced by backup Zach Mettenberger with 14:49 remaining in the game.
Winston acknowledged that the opening-day mismatch will raise questions over whether the Buccaneers drafted the right quarterback.
“When somebody plays as great as he did, of course you’re going to say that,” he said. “But it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. ... They played the best they can possibly play and we played the worst we can possibly play. We got our worst game out of the way and we can’t look back now.”
The quarterback matchup was only one element of the Bucs’ loss, in which they fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter and were down 42-7 when Mariota left the game.
“We’re very disappointed, embarrassed and all that stuff, but it is one game,” said coach Lovie Smith. “Their quarterback played better than ours today. Their football team played better today. Their coach did a better job coaching their football team than I did today.”
Mariota teamed with Kendall Wright on a 52-yard TD play less than two minutes into the game and also had TD throws of 12 yards to Bishop Sankey, 4 yards to Harry Douglass and 1-yard to Delanie Walker to build a 35-7 halftime lead.
The Titans, who didn’t score more than 28 in any game while going 2-14 last season, scored on four of five possessions in the opening half.
Coty Sensabaugh, starting in place of injured Titans cornerback Jason McCourty, picked off Winston’s first pass and ran 26 yards for a TD. Although Winston threw a 5-yard TD pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and teamed late with the second-year tight end on a 41-yard scoring play, he never established a rhythm throwing the ball.
Winston and Mariota are the sixth pair of quarterbacks to be taken with the first two picks in the draft, joining Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning (1971), Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer (1993), Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf (1998), Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb (1999), and Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III (2012).
Bledsoe and Mirer, as well as Peyton Manning and Leaf, also faced each other as rookies, but not in Week 1.
The Titans snapped a 10-game losing streak dating to last season. The Bucs have lost 10 straight home games, nine of them under Smith.