FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –** A dejected Marcus Mariota stood at the podium on Saturday night, his ankles still taped, and disappointed etched on his face.
The Titans saw their season come to an end here at Gillette Stadium, and Mariota wasn't happy about it.
"Embarrassed," Mariota said. "You don't play to come and lose in the divisional playoffs. You play to go win the whole thing, and we just didn't execute, and didn't make plays. They did, and they are moving on.
"Hopefully people use this as motivation. Yeah, it is nice to get in the playoffs, but you don't play to just get in, especially to lose the way that we did."
The Titans lost 35-14 to the Patriots on a night when Mariota complete 22-of-37 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said after the contest Mariota played through a strained quad he suffered in the first quarter, but Mariota didn't use it as an excuse.
It was partly to blame for Mariota being sacked a season-high eight times against the Patriots, however, and those setbacks resulted in empty possessions, stalled drives and missed opportunities for the Titans. The Titans were just 5-of-15 on third down, and after a first quarter touchdown drive, the team sputtered offensively until posting another score late in the contest.
"I think we have a lot of areas to improve," Mariota said. "But I think throughout this entire season we didn't play a complete game of football. One phase plays well, and the other one doesn't, and tonight we didn't make enough plays."
Mariota completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to receiver Corey Davis late in the first quarter to give the Titans a 7-0 lead. But the Patriots scored 35 straight points before the Titans scored again, the last time on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Davis with just 1:55 left.
The Patriots put a spy on Mariota, which kept him in the pocket, and Mariota said the Patriots covered well in the secondary. Mariota said the Titans can learn a lot from a game with a battle-tested team like the Patriots. Mariota ran for 37 yards on four carries, but ran it just once for six yards after halftime.
When Mariota reflected on the 2017 season, he saw strides made by the Titans.
But moving forward, he knows there's room for improvement in his game, and in the overall performance of the team.
"At first glance, it (was) OK," Mariota said of his season. "We won some games, but I didn't play probably at the level I wanted to throughout the year, but that happens, and I have to learn from it and grow from it, and I will.
"Obviously getting into playoffs was huge, and I thought we won a lot of games close, whether it was taking a last-minute drive to score. And when you are able to get in those tough situations and guys continue to make plays and we are able to win games like that it kind of creates that foundation you can build off of for years to come."
The Tennessee Titans take on the New England Patriots in an AFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Gillette Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)