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All weekend the Titans weren’t sure that Marcus Mariota would be available for Monday’s game. He injured his hamstring two weeks ago in a blow out loss to Houston. The offense sputtered with Matt Cassel at the helm. On Monday night, Mariota returned and showed off a new gear. He established himself as a pocket passer and gave the Titans a new element on offense. The win over the Colts put the Titans right back in the AFC South race.

Mariota’s injury history became a point of contention over the last few weeks. His mobility is an asset but the Titans leaned on it too much. His hamstring injury proved to be the last straw. On Monday he couldn’t run but retooled his game to the tune of 306 yards and a touchdown. He completed 23 of 36 passes and looked efficient for most of the game. This has to delight the coaching staff and fans. If Mariota is to play the rest of the season, the exotic smashmouth can’t keep asking him to run the ball more than his backs.

The Titans offensive line enabled Mariota to remain upright and find receivers without having to leave the pocket. They also sprung Derrick Henry for a 72-yard game clinching touchdown. On defense, the Titans have shown tremendous growth as well. Yes, the Colts are a tomato can but it was a game the Titans needed to win. The schedule gets easier for a few weeks starting with the hapless Browns. Mariota can continue getting more comfortable in the pocket while his hamstring recovers.

Tennessee moved to 3-3 and in a three-way tie for first place in the South. The key to them winning the division remains Mariota. If he’s healthy and demonstrates the ability to remain in the pocket, that could be the difference. The Texans are hobbled on defense and Deshaun Watson is still a work in progress. The Jaguars are great on defense and Fournette is a beast but they still have Blake Bortles. The Titans are the most well-rounded team in the division. Now that Mariota is a pocket passer the Titans are dangerous.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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