Mariota thrills Titans fans in Nissan Stadium debut

Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota on the cover of the team’s Gameday program. photo: Cass Teague

Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota on the cover of the team’s Gameday Cass Teague

In the first game at renamed Nissan Stadium, rookie Quarterback Marcus Mariota was sharp, picking up where he left off a week earlier in the preseason opener at Atlanta. Bishop Sankey made a number of impressive runs behind a reshaped offensive line. And the defense suddenly looked much more formidable, getting stops – and even a score – a week after struggling. It all added up to an impressive 27-14 win on Sunday night over the Rams, which spoiled the homecoming for former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.

Mariota was impressive from the start, connecting with receiver Kendall Wright on the first offensive play of the game for a 16-yard gain, and guiding an early drive that eventually stalled in Rams territory. Mariota rolled to his right and connected with tight end Craig Stevens for a 35-yard gain as part of an 8-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a Ryan Succop field goal.

“I thought our offense played well,’’ Mariota said. “We were able to move the ball. We got big gains, big plays. At first we weren’t able to finish, so obviously there are things we can get better at, but any way you can get points on the board, especially in this league, it’s pivotal.”

Mariota’s completed 5-of-8 passes for 59 yards, earning a passer rating of 84.9. His numbers would’ve been better if running back Dexter McCluster hadn’t dropped a sure touchdown at the end of the team’s second series. The Titans offered several reasons to feel better in a game that provided optimism for a fan base looking for reasons to get excited following a dismal 2-14 season.

Cornerback Perrish Cox scored the first points of the night when he intercepted Rams quarterback Nick Foles and raced 24 yards for a touchdown to give the Titans a 7-0 lead. Succop’s field goal made it 10-0 late in the first quarter, as the Titans dominated on both side of the football.

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 7-of-9 passes for 91 yards. He threw a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chase Coffman late in the second quarter to make it 17-0. Another Succop field goal made it 20-0 just before halftime. The Rams scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Chris Givens to make it 20-7 in the third quarter before the Titans made it 27-7 late in fourth quarter on a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Tanney to Coffman, his second score of the night. The Rams added a touchdown late to account for the final margin.

Mariota’s first game at Nissan Stadium was memorable. “It was special,’’ Mariota said. “You know the fans are so passionate, the community itself. You know the love for the Titans, it’s awesome and it makes us as players extra motivated. I think it’s a special moment for us.”

The Titans travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs for their third preseason game on Friday night, August 28.