NFL

Mariota’s 3 TDs Pushes Titans Past Browns

Photo by: Associated Press/James Kenney

Marcus Mariota’s 284 passing yards and 3 touchdown passes and timely defense powered the Tennessee Titans to a 28-26 victory against the Cleveland Browns. This is the first time the Titans have won back-to-back games since the end of the 2013 season. Also, today marked the first time they beat a team other than Jacksonville at home since 2013. The Titans improved to 3-3 and the Browns are 0-6.

“I think it’s important,” Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey said when asked about the win. “The whole week we were talking about just winning this game, everything else… there was a lot of things out there -two in a row, winning at home- for a variety of reasons it was important that we won this game. I think it took care of all the reasons why we had to win it. It was important. I’m not sure in the last couple of years that they could win that game. This year we found a way to win the game, and obviously we didn’t want to make it that close, but we did a lot good things in that game. Things we set out to do from the beginning, we did it.”

Wide-receiver Kendall Wright caught 8 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. His teammates mobbed him after the touchdown reception because he overcame nagging injuries and had a breakout game.

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“I mean there were a lot of welcome backs over there, but I haven’t really went anywhere,” Wright said. “Whenever my number is called, I have to be ready to make plays. They cheered me on today and had my back.

“If we want to be a good team, we got to learn how to pull through in those close games. The one thing I will say, I am proud of my teammates. We stuck in and fought all the way to the final seconds ticked off of the clock. We gave ourselves a chance to win, but we got to do better.”

With games against the Colts and Jaguars next week, the Titans are looking to make some noise during the homestand and improve their standing within the AFC South.

“It’s good, Mularkey said. “I think we’re still… we’re on the right track. We still have things we obviously have to get better at and I know we’re on the right track with what we’re doing, the way we practice, the way we’re meeting; there’s a lot showing up in games that’s carrying over from practice. We have a lot of work to do still, there’s some things that certainly still need to be cleaned up, but we are heading the right way.”

Marcus Mariota completed 17-of-24 passes for 284 yards and threw three touchdowns. He also ran for 64 yards, overcame an untimely interception and a running game that was largely snuffed out by the Browns defense.

“Overall, it was just important for us be versatile, to do things outside of the running game which makes our offense tougher to defend,” Mariota said. “Receivers did a great job of getting open, you know, staying alive on some of those plays and doing a good job up front of just giving me some room to run and got ready to pull the win out.”

The Titans were up 28-13 with 6:59 left in the game after Mariota threw his third touchdown of the day to tight end Anthony Fasano. Then, Browns quarterback Cody Kessler showed he has the heart of a champion.

The rookie from Southern California was sacked six times and was under duress all day long. However, Kessler mustered the will to drive the Browns back into the game. He took them 75 yards on 13 plays and capped it off with a 5 yard touchdown pass to Terrelle Pryor. The two point attempt failed, and the Browns trailed 28-19. Pryor had nine catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns Sunday.

“He’s just such a hardened, passionate kid. It’s unbelievable,” Pryor said. “You would never know anything else was going on outside of football. All he wants to do is win.

“The kid’s a winner, period. Like I’ve said before, just because we’re losing doesn’t mean we’re losers. There’s a lot of guys on this team fighting and working their butts off on a daily basis trying to win the game before we get here.” Kessler helped engineer two late but gutsy drives that watched Cleveland come an onsides kick away from having a chance to win the game.

Cleveland recovered the ensuing on-side kick and Kessler once again drove the Browns down field. Helped out by a horse-collar tackle by Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan, the Browns scored a touchdown by running back Duke Johnson. The extra point was good and the Browns reduced the Titans lead to 28-26.

“This team doesn’t quit. I don’t sense that. I sense that there are some plays we are leaving out there that we can do better. People get ahead and we start chasing. We have got to play consistent for four quarters.” — Browns coach Hue Jackson

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Notes: Cleveland Browns safety Jordan Poyer suffered a lacerated kidney from a blindside block on punt coverage Sunday in a loss to the Tennessee Titans. He will remain in the hospital overnight while being evaluated for a concussion and possible abdominal injuries. The hit came from Antonio Andrews, as Titans punt returner Marc Mariani reversed field. Poyer reversed field following Mariani and Andrews hit him full speed in the chest and jaw region.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Marcus Mariota completed seven-of-nine passes on throws of more than 10 yards downfield Sunday, his most such completions this season. He had as many touchdown passes (2) on those throws against the Browns as he did in the Titans’ first four games of the season.

Photos are by the Associated Press.

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