Has Mariota found the winning formula?

Has Mariota found the winning formula?
Image: Donn Jones, AP (Donn Jones, AP))

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sitting in second place in the AFC South after winning their last two games, the Tennessee Titans are riding high on offense, scoring 28 and 34 points, respectively, in back-to-back weeks.

The offensive struggles have been well-documented, and the critics have been loud. But a recent change in observation, a shift in research and a formulation of a new hypothesis have resulted in a dynamic offense, spear-headed by the team’s franchise quarterback.

At the helm of this experiment is Marcus Mariota, the scientist under center who has tried, failed and learned over the course of his young career. But the former Heisman Trophy winner seems to have made a breakthrough in his scientific method in the last three weeks, throwing for 705 yards with an impressive 61-of-85 passing the ball, good enough for a 71.7 completion percentage.

He has also thrown five passing touchdowns while using his legs to rush for another, throwing one interception during that span.

But unlike most mad scientists, Mariota is not maniacal in his approach. Instead, he is calm, cool and collected no matter what scenario he finds himself in.

“He really does continue to lead us in his composure,” said head coach Mike Vrabel after beating the Patriots. “You know, he’s got some lunatics. He’s got me, borderline lunatic (offensive coordinator Matt) LaFleur, and this kid is just, God love him, steady as it gets during the week.

In fact, Mariota might have been too poised for his good at the start of the season.

The Titans’ first-year offensive coordinator LaFleur told ESPN’s Dan Graziano after Saturday’s win over the Patriots that Mariota was too polite at first in identifying which plays work and don’t work in the rhythm of the offense.

"He's such a respectful guy, it was tough to get him to say, 'Nah, I don't like that play,'" LaFleur said.

After defeating the Dallas Cowboys during prime time on Monday Night Football last week, however, there was a shift in Mariota’s approach to play-calling.

"After that game, I told him, 'Dude, I felt like the catcher, giving the pitcher the signals, and you kept shaking me off,'" LaFleur said. "Which is great, because ultimately, they're the guys out there, and if they don't have confidence in something, odds are it's not going to work anyway. We have a ton of plays we can call."

The 5-4 Titans won’t have much time to celebrate their two-game winning streak as they take on divisional rival, the Indianapolis Colts. For Mariota, defeating last year’s AFC champs goes a long way in terms of gaining confidence and boosting the team’s morale. But he knows that just because they’ve found a little success here and there doesn’t mean that their process is foolproof.

And just like any good science experiment, the results have to replicated.

“This was a great win for us, but at the same time, it’s just another step,” Mariota said. “We’re still not where we want to be, and if we get caught up in this, we’re not going to play very well in our next game.”

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