So Much Talent, Too Many Turnovers For Mariota

Posted at 9:09 AM, Nov 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-08 10:10:42-05

Marcus Mariota was the Titans' best player Sunday. Unfortunately, at times, he was also the Chargers' best player.

Mariota's three turnovers led to 17 San Diego points in a 43-35 loss that dropped Tennessee to 4-5 on the season.

He had both a fumble and an interception returned for touchdowns in the game.

The catastrophic play has plagued Mariota. For the season, five of his 15 turnovers have been returned for touchdowns. That's two more defensive touchdowns surrendered than any other player in the league.
That's life with a young quarterback.

Mariota also threw for a season-high 313 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in the game, almost single-handedly erasing an early 16-0 hole. His spectacular 14-yard touchdown run to start the second half gave the Titans a 21-19 lead.

And that's the thing, you have to take a little bad with all the good from Mariota. He is a phenomenal talent that has helped lead the Titans back to relevance, but he turned 23 years old just a week ago. Mistakes will happen.

There's still way more reasons to like the second-year quarterback than there are reasons for concern. Through his first 21 games, Mariota has thrown 36 touchdowns against just 18 interceptions. That's better than every other young quarterback star in the league today.

Andrew Luck is widely considered the best of that group, but he only threw 30 touchdowns to 20 interceptions in his first 21 games for the AFC South rival Colts.

Derek Carr and the standout receiving corps of the Raiders? They combined for just 29 touchdowns (15 interceptions) in his first 21 games.

And then there's Jameis Winston. The quarterback selected ahead of Mariota no. 1 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft threw seven fewer touchdowns (31) and six more interceptions (24) in his first 21 games with the Buccaneers.

It's not the total number of turnovers that haunts Mariota, it's when they have come. In week one against the Vikings, Mariota turned the ball over three times in the second half and, again, had two of them returned for touchdowns in a 25-16 loss. He also coughed up a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the final minutes of a 34-26 loss to the Colts.

Mariota has to erase the disastrous mistakes to take his game, and the Titans, to the next level. And there's signs that he's not completely averse to proper ball security.

Consider the fact that for his career Mariota has thrown 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions in the red zone. That's literally perfect in what should be the most difficult 20-yard swath on the field for a quarterback to operate. It's the plays between the 20's where Mariota has sometimes failed to protect the football.

I don't know if that's a product of Mariota trying to do too much, the Titans putting too much on the shoulders of their young QB or an unremarkable receiving corps around him. Whatever the reason, Mariota needs to start treating the entire field like he does the red zone.

The ball is precious, and Mariota and the Titans know that all too well now.

He'll get it right, hopefully sooner than later. He has way too big of a talent with the ball in his hands to keep giving it away.