Mariota Reenergized, Ready to Go After Bye Weekend

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota kicked back and relaxed during the bye weekend.

He spent time with his parents in Nashville, and went to his girlfriend's soccer game. He watched a lot of college football.

Now, Mariota's ready to kick things up a notch in the final 13 games of the season. Despite the team's 1-2 start to the season, Mariota believes the Titans have plenty to feel good about heading into Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.

The Titans returned to practice on Monday.

"Those first three games is a good confidence booster for the entire team. We have been in every game, and we just have to learn how to finish,'' Mariota said after practice. "I think this bye week was an opportunity to learn, and get better.

"It all starts with one game at a time. If you focus too far ahead, you lose what is going on in the moment. For this team it is getting ready for Buffalo."

Mariota's rookie season is off to a nice start. He's currently ranked fifth in the NFL with a 109.2 in passer rating, behind only veterans Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. He's thrown eight touchdowns vs. only two interceptions while racking up 833 passing yards.

Last week, Mariota was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for September.

"It is an incredible honor,'' Mariota said. "But I can't really say that was my doing. It was really the entire offense. The offensive line did a great job providing me time, the receivers got open and made plays, and the coaches did a good job preparing us. All in all it is our award and it's a standard we have to live by now."

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Mariota's start to the season has only confirmed the team's beliefs about him.

"Marcus has played well. There's things that young players, mistakes that everybody makes. But the poise he has shown, the plays that he's made. It's been very good. He's done a nice job. All these tests that he's faced. He's met these tests, and by and large he's done very well,'' Whisenhunt said.

"… We certainly feel very good about the decision to take Marcus, even the little sample he has shown."

On Monday, Mariota cited several areas where he thinks he needs to improve.

For starters, he wants to do a better job taking care of the football. Mariota fumbled the ball three times in a loss at Cleveland, and the Titans lost two of them. He's been sacked 12 times in three games, and blamed himself for holding the ball too long.

"Whether it's throwing the ball away, or finding the check-down to the back,'' Mariota said. "There's things that I can learn, and I'll continue to hammer them home during practice and hopefully it will translate into the games."

Mariota will face a challenge this week against the Bills.

Bills head coach Rex Ryan is known for being aggressive in coming after quarterbacks. After facing veterans like Brady, Andrew Luck and Eli Manning in recent weeks, Mariota's the first rookie QB on Buffalo's docket this season.

"(Marcus) faced pressure in Cleveland and handled it in the noise, and we got pressure last week (vs. Indianapolis). When you are a rookie quarterback you are going to see pressure,'' Whisenhunt said.

"He'll get better as he sees more and more of it. This will be a unique challenge because Buffalo gives you so many different looks. But he's seen a lot of different looks from our defense."

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