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Titans Lose Mariota, Costly Game To Jags

Posted: 4:02 PM, Dec 24, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-25 03:59:22Z

From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in six days, the swing of emotions for the Titans were almost as drastic as the temperature change.

A week after toughing out a sub-zero wind chill to rally past the Chiefs 19-17, the Titans were out-toughed on a gorgeous mid-70's day in Jacksonville by a Jaguars team that had lost nine straight games and fired their coach just Sunday.

Worse yet, the Titans lost Marcus Mariota to a fractured fibula in the third quarter, abruptly ending a sensational sophomore campaign for the star quarterback.

Mariota suffered the injury when his right leg was bent awkwardly on a sack by Sheldon Day late in the third quarter. After trying to get up, he crumbled back down to the turf pounding his fist against the grass in obvious frustration.

He knew what the world would soon find out. His season was over, and Tennessee's season likely is as well.

With Matt Cassel inserted at quarterback the Titans pulled within 25-17 early in the fourth quarter, but after a wide receiver pass from Marqise Lee back to quarterback Blake Bortles for a touchdown restored the two score lead, Jalen Ramsey returned a Cassel interception to seal the outcome.

The 38-17 final was the most lobsided score in a season of tight, competitive football games by the Titans, and may very well be the reason they miss the postseason for the eighth consecutive year.

After three consecutive emotional wins, the Titans seemingly had nothing left to give. And while disappointing, that, by itself, wouldn't have ruined all the progress this team has made. But the disappointment of a bad performance quickly turned to devastation with the news of the severity of Mariota's injury.

This was the equivalent of waking up on Christmas morning and finding coal in your stocking, and then realizing the house is on fire. That's how crippling the Mariota injury could be for the Titans.

Mariota is the engine that makes the Titans run. In just his second season in the NFL, he threw for 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He threw multiple TDs in eight consecutive games, was named the AFC Player of the Month in November and led game-winning scoring drives in the fourth quarter in both Detroit and Kansas City.

But now the Pro Bowl alternate likely faces surgery, lengthy rehab and an uncertain offseason that will spark questions ahead of next season.

Just how bad was the break? How well will it heal? And how much impact will it have on the 23 year old quarterback's offseason preparation for 2017?

The answers won't come for some time, but now the AFC South team that had the fewest questions heading into the offseason faces the biggest question about it's most important player.

Just six days ago the Titans were celebrating a huge win, alive in the AFC South and staring at a bright future.

But on Christmas Eve in sun-splashed Jacksonville, the Titans suffered a painful loss to the Jaguars that will be felt for a long time to come.