Marcus Mariota’s touchdown catch – yes, catch – was a rare Tennessee Titans highlight in an otherwise dismal effort against the New York Jets.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passes as New York scored on five of its first six possessions, and Mariota and the Titans were stifled for most of the game as the Jets cruised to a 30-8 victory Sunday.
“That was not good,” interim coach Mike Mularkey said. “The first half was a good example of if you play poorly in all three phases, you’re going to have a hard time against a good football team.”
Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Bilal Powell each caught TD passes for the Jets (8-5), who stayed on track in the AFC playoff race with their first three-game winning streak since 2011.
Meanwhile, Mariota finished 21 of 39 for 274 yards and an interception for the Titans, who were looking to win consecutive games for the first time since the end of the 2013 season.
Tennessee (3-10) dropped to 2-4 under Mularkey during a day of miscues for the Titans, including a communications failure when their headsets went silent moments before Marshall torched them with a 69-yard scoring catch.
“It was one of those games we wish we could have back and start it over,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said.
The few positives on the day were the experience Mariota and his young teammates gained from facing a veteran Jets defense.
And, of course, the trick play that produced the Titans’ lone score.
Andrews took the direct snap – with Mariota lined up wide – and floated a pass down the right sideline. Safety Calvin Pryor slipped on the coverage, leaving Mariota completely uncovered. The rookie quarterback made the catch and cruised into the end zone for a 41-yard score. A 2-point conversion to Dexter McCluster cut the deficit to 27-8.
The Titans had struggled to execute the play in practice all week.
“It was all bad throws this week,” Andrews said. “When we did it game speed, it worked.”
As Andrews uncorked the throw, Mariota was in full stride.
“The guys did a great job of selling it,” Mariota said. “Antonio made a great throw. I had some experience in high school playing receiver. I was pretty comfortable.”
Mariota also became the first player since Walter Payton in 1983 with 40-yard touchdowns on a pass, a rush and a reception in the same season.
Fitzpatrick, who has set a single-season career high with 25 touchdown throws, finished 21 of 36 for 263 yards. Chris Ivory ran for 101 yards on 22 carries, and Randy Bullock kicked three field goals. Muhammad Wilkerson had three sacks for New York, which was coming off a stunning 23-20 overtime win over the Giants last week and had some wondering if there might be a letdown against the lowly Titans (3-10).
Not a chance.
“If you’re the Golden State Warriors, you can have a trap game,” said coach Todd Bowles, referring to the NBA team that started its season 24-0 before a loss Saturday. “We’re not that good.”
With temperatures an unseasonably warm 68 degrees at kickoff, the Jets got off to a roaring start. A 14-play drive on their opening possession was capped by Fitzpatrick’s 16-yard toss to Decker.
Powell took a short pass from Fitzpatrick and slipped defenders and zipped his way into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown that made it 20-0. The Titans blocked the extra point, but Da’Norris Searcy was offside and, 5 yards closer, Bullock made his next attempt. Searcy later left with a hamstring injury.
Fitzpatrick threw a short pass to Marshall, who stiff-armed a defender and tip-toed down the right sideline for a 69-yard TD that put the Jets up 27-0 before halftime.
Mularkey said the Titans’ headsets went out on them, adding to the confusion.
“There was no communication to upstairs or the linebackers,” Mularkey said. “Not an excuse. That doesn’t give us any reason to not cover an uncovered receiver.”
Added Orakpo: “We were scrambling and trying to get lined up. The quarterback saw us in a bind and he made a veteran play to his big-time receiver.”
Through two quarters, New York dominated the stats sheet: 324-72 in total yards, 17-4 in first downs and 19:47-10:13 in time of possession. The Jets outgained the Titans 439-292 overall.
“We just didn’t execute,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “We didn’t do the things we needed to do to be productive in any phase.”