NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Marcus Mariota used to dream about playing on Monday Night Football.
When he took his spot on center stage, the Titans quarterback turned in a performance to remember in a 36-22 win over the Colts at Nissan Stadium.
"Credit to Marcus," Titans running back Derrick Henry said. "Now that's a leader. That's a tough guy. To come out here not even 100 percent, and to play against a good division opponent, that shows what type of leader he is, what type of guy he is."
After missing last week's game against the Dolphins with a hamstring injury, Mariota returned to action against the Colts despite being limited in practices during the week.
It was clear Mariota wasn't 100 percent – when he got into the open field on one play, he slid. After the game, Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Mariota had been given instructions not to run, and risk further injury.
But Mariota was plenty good on this night. He completed 23-of-32 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. He responded well to adversity, and made some big throws in the second half as the Titans rallied. He had a big one-yard gain on a quarterback sneak on a fourth-and-one.
"The guy is a complete stud," tackle Taylor Lewan said of Mariota. "That guy is pretty all-time."
Mariota deflected praise at the podium after the game.
Instead, he raved about receiver Taywan Taylor's 53-yard touchdown catch to give the Titans the lead, and Henry's 72-yard touchdown run to seal it. He praised the offensive linemen who gave him time to throw it.
He admitted it was tough to watch last week, and he was champing at the bit to get back.
"I wanted to be out there last week, and unfortunately I wasn't able to do that," Mariota said. "So I was happy to get the green light. It just comes down to everyone just going out there and executing, and we were able to make the plays we needed to win."
Mularkey said he felt good about Mariota's chances of playing over the weekend after the quarterback practiced during the week.
Mariota wasn't perfect early. He missed some throws, and after he threw an interception that was returned 26 yards for a touchdown by linebacker John Simon, things didn't look good, as the Titans trailed 19-9. The Titans struggled in the red zone most the game.
But Mariota stepped up big down the stretch, making one big throw after the next. He found Eric Decker seven times for 88 yards, and Rishard Matthews four times for 69 yards.
It ended up being a memorable night for Mariota, and the Titans.
"For me, I just wanted to make plays for the guys, and the guys made it easy on me," Mariota said. "Protection was great, receivers made plays."
Monday Night Football was everything Mariota imagined as a kid.
"It was an awesome experience, one that I'll enjoy," Mariota said. "When you look back on it, it's cool. It's quite the spectacle, it's an awesome deal. And the atmosphere was great, the fans were awesome. To be able to be out there with the guys andget this win, it was huge."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6 action on Monday Night Football at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)