NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans wanted Marcus Mariota to end the preseason with positive vibes.
Now, the rookie quarterback is ready for the start of the regular season.
"Obviously, now it counts,'' Mariota said after the team's 24-17 win over the Vikings in the preseason finale. "And we are looking forward to it. I think we have built a solid foundation for the season and we are excited to put it on the field."
Mariota didn't play long on Thursday night at Nissan Stadium, but he had quick success.
The second overall pick played just four plays, but that was enough to guide the Titans on a 79-yard drive to give the team a 7-0 lead before Mariota traded in his helmet for a baseball cap early in the first quarter.
The scoring play was a 59-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to receiver Harry Douglas. It was Mariota's first touchdown pass in four preseason games.
So did Mariota save the football from his first TD pass?
"I didn't even really think about it,'' he said. "We'll see when the regular season gets going."
The Titans face the Buccaneers on September 13 in Week One of the regular season.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said he wanted to give Mariota one more chance to get comfortable at Nissan Stadium before the end of the preseason. After two road games to start the regular season, the Titans will face the Colts on September 27 at home.
"I felt like it was important to get Marcus in a routine coming to the stadium, he'd only been here once before,'' Whisenhunt said. "So getting him comfortable with his locker and the pre-game preparation and the grass and a lot of the little things you don't think about."
Mariota looked like he was comfortable early. He threw a 15-yard completion to tight end Delanie Walker on his first throw of the night. After a five-yard run by Antonio Andrews, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham wasn't able to haul in a short pass from Mariota.
Then came the scoring toss, when Douglas benefited from a nice block by Andrews downfield.
"That's one of the things we harp on and preach every day in practice, running downfield, finishing and getting blocks so your teammates can get extra yards or even score,'' Douglas said. "So that's what happened then. (Antonio) was the first person I was looking for when I came out of the end zone."
Mariota's final numbers on the night: 2-of-3 for 74 yards and a touchdown, good for a passer rating of 149.3. He played just 1:32 in the game before being replaced by Zach Mettenberger.
Mariota's final numbers of the preseason: 21-of-30 for 326 yards, one touchdown and one interception, with a passer rating of 102.9. Mariota also ran for 17 yards on five carries in the preseason.
"As far as I am concerned I think he had a good preseason but that doesn't count any more,'' tackle Taylor Lewan said of Mariota. "This is the big time, this is what it is and this is what we get paid to do. There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to be successful, he will. Having the pressure that he has, being the second overall pick, hasn't fazed him one bit."
Mariota called Thursday night's game a "confidence booster."
But as he walked out of Nissan Stadium late Thursday, his mind was on Tampa Bay.
"Definitely, I feel like we had some ups and downs in the preseason but that is typical. It's good for us to learn and battle through a little bit of adversity,'' Mariota said. "As a whole we are ready to get going and get the season going. We look forward to next week."
The Titans take on the Vikings in Week 4 of the preseason at Nissan Stadium. (Donn Jones, AP)