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Marcus Mariota: Red Zone Failures "The Turning Point"



NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** The highlight of Marcus Mariota's day ended with the team's only touchdown.

It came in the first quarter, when the Titans quarterback took the snap and headed to his left. After picking up a block from tight end Delanie Walker, Mariota crossed the goal line for a 10-yard touchdown run.

"It came out just like every day in practice," Mariota said. "The end tried to grab the running back. Delanie and the receivers did a great job blocking. It really was an easy route for me. Those guys did all the work. I just kind of had the ball."

After the team's season-opening loss to the Raiders, however, the offensive lowlight was easy to spot.

The Titans lost 26-16 partly because of the team's inability to score touchdowns in the red zone.

"Yeah, that was critical," Mariota said. "I think that was probably the turning point of the game was the fact that we couldn't score touchdowns in there. You play a good team like that, you've got to make the most out of your opportunities and unfortunately, we weren't able to do that today."

After the 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on their first possession, the Titans made plenty of positive plays.

Receiver Rishard Matthews came up with one big catch after another, and finished with five catches for 71 yards. Walker hauled in seven catches for 76 yards, and rookie Corey Davis made a nice contribution himself. Davis, in his first NFL game, made six catches for 69 yards.

But the Titans squandered chances to get touchdowns, going 1-3 in red zone efficiency.

The 15-play, 93-yard drive in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, only it ended with a 23-yard field goal from kicker Ryan Succop. The Titans reached the five-yard line on the drive, but couldn't close the deal.

In the third quarter, a nine-play, 67-yard drive ended with a 26-yard kick by Succop. On a third-and-2 from the Oakland seven-yard line, running back DeMarco Murray was stopped for a one-yard loss.

"I like how we responded to a touchdown, we came back, went 75 yards for a touchdown," coach Mike Mularkey said. "I like that we had the ball on the two and went down to kick a field goal and match theirs. I liked a lot of things we did. We came up short. I didn't like that we had to kick a field goal in the red zone. We need to finish drives much better, and we need to convert third downs."

Mariota finished the day completing 25-of-41 passes for 256 yards, and the touchdown run in the first quarter.

And while the Titans finished the day a respectable 7-of-14 on third down, they went just 2-of-7 on third down in the second half after a 5-of-7 start in the first half. The Titans kicked themselves for coming up short at critical times.

"I thought the receivers did a good job," Mariota said. "I thought, offensively, we moved the ball. We just got kind of stalled down there in the red zone. That's something that we're good at. You know, over the last couple of years, we've made a lot of plays down in the red zone. Just today, we weren't able to do that.

"I've got to give credit to Oakland's defense. They made a couple plays down there when we didn't."

Now, the Titans need to bounce back, Mariota said.

"Flush it and move on and get ready to go," Mariota said.

Next Sunday, the team travels to Jacksonville.

After the game, Mariota was asked what this week means, considering he was injured on a play at Jacksonville last year.

"Honestly, I haven't really put much thought into it," he said. "It's a division opponent and it's a road game. Most important is just going out there, playing well and getting a win. We didn't play very well in our division last season and we have to change that if we want to go on and accomplish the things we want to do."

The Tennessee Titans take on the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 action at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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