NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** With the game on the line, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota delivered.
His biggest play in Sunday's 15-10 playoff-clinching win over the Jaguars wasn't a pass, or a long, highlight-reel scamper while showing off his wheels.
It was a third-and-five run when he broke out a mean stiff-arm, and lifted the Titans into the playoffs.
"That was Beastmode," defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said. "Marcus understood the game was in his hands, and he took control. That stiff arm, it was mean."
Leading 15-10 with the ball on their own 44-yard line with 2:13 remaining, the Titans were facing a critical third-and-five. Mariota dropped back in the pocket, and faced pressure. He avoided Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell, and then took off.
Running to his left, he found some bodies between him and the first down. So he stiff-armed Jaguars safety Barry Church, and raced toward the first down. He finished it with a slide after a 13-yard gain.
It was game over at that point. The Titans held the ball before punting it away. When the Jaguars got the ball back with just 18 seconds left, they were in desperation mode. And that's when safety Kevin Byard ended it with an interception.
"I just call him the silent assassin," Titans tight end Delanie Walker said.
Said Mariota: "They covered it well. I kind of understood the situation, and wanted to make a play for the guys, and I was able to do it."
Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said Mariota had a fierce look in his eyes down the stretch on a day when he threw for 134 yards on 12-of-21 passing, but really impacted the game with some crucial runs. Mariota finished the game with 10 carries for 60 yards.
"When I looked into his eyes, he had those Oregon eyes, running around, making plays," Orakpo said. "He was digging deep. You could see it in his eyes. He was unstoppable."
A year ago, Mariota's season ended against the Jaguars. He was carted off the field in Jacksonville on December 24 with a fractured fibula.
On Sunday, Mariota guided the franchise to its first playoff appearance since 2008.
"It's hard to describe (the feeling)," Mariota said. "I am so happy for these guys. It's been a lot of hard work from a lot of different people. We're looking forward to next week and hopefully we can build one after another."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)