Mariota comes off bench, Titans beat Jaguars 9-6
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Marcus Mariota just has a knack for beating Jacksonville.
He’s done it with his arm. He’s done it with his legs. Now he’s done it off the bench.
Mariota directed three scoring drives in relief of Blaine Gabbert, including one in the fourth quarter, and Tennessee knocked off the Jaguars 9-6 Sunday for their third straight victory in the series. Mariota improved to 5-2 against Jacksonville, his most wins against any opponent.
First-year Titans coach Mike Vrabel gave Mariota a game ball in the locker room.
“He was fantastic,” Vrabel said. “He cares about this team immensely. He wants what’s best for this team. You saw him come in there, get us some first downs and give us a spark.”
Mariota sat out last week’s victory against Houston because of an elbow injury sustained in the season opener. He was still experiencing arm weakness along with numbness and tingling in two fingers this week, saying the injury affects the velocity and spin he gets on the football.
Mariota, who wore a glove on his injured right hand, replaced Gabbert (concussion) in the first quarter and did just enough to beat the Jaguars (2-1) for the fifth time in the past six meetings.
Mariota completed 12 of 18 passes for 100 yards and ran for 51 more, including a 15-yard gain on a third-and-1 play late. The Titans (2-1) milked the clock from there and ended up celebrating an early lead in the AFC South.
“Jacksonville has been favored over us these last couple of games because people look at papers; they don’t pay attention to how we play,” Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said.
“They walk into this game thinking they’ve got it, and we know what we can do on our side of the field and we make sure we do it all four quarters. Don’t let them get ahead of you and we can play with these guys.”
Tennessee finished with 233 yards, but grinded out 150 on the ground, played mistake-free football and let the defense do most of the heavy lifting.
“We’re not afraid of anyone,” Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “We’re going to play as if we belong anywhere. People will count us out, but that’s not the case.”
Jacksonville looked lost most of the afternoon on one side of the ball, failing to score an offensive touchdown against Tennessee for the second time in as many games.
Tennessee took away big passing plays, kept a spy on Bortles and dared Jacksonville to win with two backup offensive linemen and a backup running back.
Playing without running back Leonard Fournette, left tackle Cam Robinson and right guard A.J. Cann, the Jags managed 232 yards and a measly 12 first downs. Poor throws, dropped passes and eight penalties hurt. So did coach Doug Marrone’s decision to try a fake punt early in the game.
Corey Grant was stopped on the fourth-and-4 play, giving Tennessee the ball near midfield and leading to Ryan Succop’s first field goal.
“I always regret decisions that don’t work,” Marrone said. “I just wanted to be aggressive early and had the look.”
Jacksonville never found an offensive rhythm, looking much more like the team that struggled in the opener at the New York Giants than the one that shined last week against New England.
“We’ve got to not hurt ourselves, especially the way our defense is and the way we play,” Bortles said. “We’ve got to score one touchdown to win the game. To go out there and score six points in four quarters, that’s bad as an offense.
“We’ve got to find out and figure out how we’re going to handle it as a team.”
The Jaguars insist there was no finger-pointing after the game, even though it was clear the loss was on the offense.
Linebacker Telvin Smith even blamed the defense, saying “we say we’re the best; we’ve got to go out and be the best.”
Fournette missed his second straight game because of a strained right hamstring. Jacksonville ran for 87 yards and lost for the first time in five games without him.
Titans punt returner Adoree’ Jackson joined Gabbert in the locker room in the second quarter and was later ruled out with a concussion. ... Titans LB Jayon Brown got hurt late in the game but jogged off the field.
Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell left the game in the fourth quarter with a right ankle injury. He had his ankle and his right knee wrapped in ice after the game. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus left briefly in the second half with a shoulder injury.
Titans return home to take on defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia next Sunday.
Jaguars complete a three-game homestand against the New York Jets next Sunday.