TAMPA, Fla. – Linebacker Derrick Morgan's lip was throbbing at one point during Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. He had a busted lip, and he wasn't exactly sure how it happened.
One thing was clear to Morgan and the Titans, however
"We won the overall fight,'' Morgan said with a smile. "It was a good team win."
Indeed. The Titans dominated the Buccaneers in the season opener on Sunday, winning 42-14 on a day when rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota stole the show.
Something else stood out, too – the Titans played defense with an attitude while making life tough for Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston's NFL debut didn't go so well on a day when Dick LeBeau coached his first game in Tennessee.
"I just let Dick LeBeau do it,'' said coach Ken Whisenhunt, smiling himself. "You guys all said he was good against rookie quarterbacks. You guys like the statistics -- you through that out there on us. Our guys played well, they played disciplined football and our secondary made some plays."
For the record, rookie quarterbacks now have a 3-27 record vs. defenses coached by LeBeau, the long-time defensive coordinator with the Steelers who joined the Titans this offseason.
Winston, the first overall pick of the NFL Draft, was 16-of-33 for 210 yards against the Titans, with two touchdowns. But he also threw two interceptions – one returned for a touchdown by Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh – and he struggled most the game as the Titans built a 42-7 lead.
The Titans sacked Winston four times, and held the Buccaneers to 3-of-14 (21%) on third down.
"We did a good job of getting after him," said Morgan, who had two of the team's four sacks. "We talked about coming after him early and often, and I think we ended up doing a good job of doing that. The offense did an excellent job of giving us the lead, and we had ample opportunities to get after him."
Winston credited the Titans while kicking himself for mistakes.
"Confidence has never been a thing for me. I love being confident. I'm always going to be confident. This is just one game, I always can bounce back,'' Winston said afterward. "This is not the end of the world, but we have to get better, we have to keep improving – that's the main thing. Obviously, the first game is the game that you see how you were in the preseason, what type of team are you, and we were not that type of team. But I believe if I didn't throw that pick we would have showed a different thing."
Sensabaugh's interception of Winston was huge early.
After the Titans jumped ahead 7-0, the fourth-year cornerback stepped in front of a Winston pass intended for Adam Humphries and raced 26 yards to make it 14-0 just over three minutes into the game. It came on Winston's first career NFL pass.
It was also Sensabaugh's first career regular season interception. In the locker room afterward, the fourth-year cornerback said the INT was for his grandmother, who recently had gum surgery. The touchdown was for his best buddy, Marcus Gilchrist of the Jets, who became a first-time dad just a few days ago when his daughter was born.
"I think it was big. Any time you can create a turnover it is big, and of course scoring helps,'' Sensabaugh said of his pick-6. "But our offense was rolling today, and No. 8 is special. He showed the country what he can be today."
Winston also praised Mariota, who threw four touchdowns in his first NFL game, afterward.
"You know he [Marcus Mariota] played an amazing game,'' Winston said. "He's a great quarterback, but as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer we have to find a way to go out there and get better."
Along with Morgan, defensive linemen Jurrell Casey and Angelo Blackson also had sacks for the Titans.
The Titans travel to Cleveland next week.
"It's a great feeling (to play like this) but we have to sustain it. We have to handle success the right way,'' Morgan said. "We can't get too up or too down, we just have to be even keeled and continue to perform and execute the way we are supposed to. We can't be up and down, we have to be consistent."