NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota showed moxie with the game on the line, guiding the Titans on a two-minute drive that featured some big throws.
In Sunday's game against the Colts, he set a franchise record for passing yards (367) in a game by a rookie, and he also became just the second player in NFL history to throw eight touchdowns in his first three NFL starts.
"That young man has a lot of character,'' guard Byron Bell said of Mariota. "He gave us a fighting chance, and we all gave ourselves a fighting chance. He is going to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league one day and he continues to prove it."
Mariota was hardly pleased after a 367-yard, two touchdown performance, however. The Titans lost 35-33 to the Colts in a game when Mariota threw his first two NFL interceptions, and was also sacked twice.
Mariota posted a passer rating of 84.2.
"I felt the coaches did a great job calling the plays,'' Mariota said when asked about the play-calling. "Myself, I've got to do a better job of executing them."
"The defense played well,'' he said of the defensive support. "Unfortunately, I put them in a bad spot in the fourth quarter."
In his first three NFL starts, Mariota has completed 61-of-97 passes for 833 yards and eight touchdowns, with two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 109.2.
The first interception of Mariota's career was a ball that was knocked out of tight end Delanie Walker's hands in the second quarter, and returned 69 yards for a touchdown by Colts defensive back Dwight Lowery to give Indianapolis a 14-0 lead.
Lowery got Mariota later when the rookie was throwing to receiver Kendall Wright. Lowery returned it to the Tennessee 11, and on the next play the Colts took a 28-27 lead.
After another Colts touchdown made it 35-27 with 2:51 left, Mariota and the Titans got the ball back, needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie it.
"We just wanted to go down and score points,'' Mariota said. "Wanted to give our team an opportunity to tie it up and hopefully win the game. My mindset wasn't any different."
Mariota completed a big third down pass to Walker for a first down. Later, he connected with Wright for a 20-yard gain. Mariota made a nifty athletic play when he connected with receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to put the ball at the Indy 2.
"I don't see much bothering Marcus,'' Wright said. "I think he played a great game. For him to be a rookie and show that poise in such a pressure situation, it says a lot. He is one player I want on my team and will always go to battle with."
The Titans made it 35-33 with 47 seconds left when fullback Jalston Fowler plunged into the end zone from one-yard out, which capped a 9-play, 80-yard drive. But the two-point conversion tried failed.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was pleased with Mariota.
"I know he did a tremendous amount of good things. He took us on a two-minute drive to score to tie it up. I mean, one of the questions you have about a quarterback is, "Can he do that?,'' Whisenhunt said. "He certainly made some good throws and some good plays there. If you wipe out everything else and say you've got two minutes to score a touchdown in a critical situation, he handled himself very well.
"Are there other things that we can all work on? Sure. He's a young quarterback. He's just like our tackle, just like our fullback, just like our receiver – we're experiencing things for the first time in situations like that and they'll be better the next time around."
The Titans have a bye next Sunday before returning to action against the Bills the following week.
"I think it's just taking it one game at a time,'' Mariota said. "You learn from this and the fact that we fought all the way through, that we had an opportunity to win, just proves to the guys that we should have confidence in every single game. When it gets close, not to press, just finish. I think we've learned that and we'll move forward."