NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Six thoughts from Sunday's 34-28 overtime win over the Saints:
Emotion is a good thing
Seeing Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey get so emotional after the game was refreshing. It was a stressful week for Mularkey, who stepped in to replace his buddy, Ken Whisenhunt. Mularkey handled it well, and the dramatic win left him in tears afterward -- on the field, in the locker room and in his session with media. It proved just how much he cares, and is invested. The reaction of the players toward Mularkey was pretty telling, too. Yes, there was relief after ending a six-game losing streak, but players genuinely like him.
Playing in a deafening place like the Superdome regularly makes it difficult on communication, but the Titans had no issues on offense. It was pretty impressive, considering it was offensive coordinator Jason Michael's first game calling the shots. The relay system in getting the plays in – from Michael in the press box to QBs coach John McNulty on the sideline to QB Marcus Mariota on the field – was smooth. The Titans didn't have a delay of game, and there was no panic even when things got very loud. Michael called some pretty good plays, too.
Protection was key
The Titans and their fans got tired of seeing their quarterbacks get beat up. On Sunday, they did something about it. For starters, the reshuffled offensive line that featured Joe Looney at left guard and Byron Bell at right tackle worked well. The Titans also designed more plays for Mariota to get rid of the ball quicker, and the plan gave offensive linemen help when needed with some chip blocking. It all added up to zero sacks for Mariota, but also left plenty of question about why the team didn't make adjustments before now.
Mariota is clutch
Mariota sure didn't look like a rookie on Sunday. In overtime, Mariota was a perfect 6-of-6 for 62 yards, including a five-yard game-winner to Anthony Fasano to cap off a nine-play, 80-yard drive. He was 5-of-5 for 51 yards on the game-tying drive, which ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass to receiver Justin Hunter, and a 2-point conversion pass to tight end Delanie Walker. Mariota showed a ton of poise in his first overtime game. Teammates said he was more vocal, and assertive, in the huddle than ever before during his rookie season.
DGB steps up
The questions about Dorial Green-Beckham piled up during the first part of the season. Why isn't he playing more? Is he not up to speed with the offense? Why don't the Titans take advantage of his skill set? On Sunday, the rookie went a long way in proving he can be a contributor. Green-Beckham caught five passes for 77 yards in the win, and he was a big part of the game-winning drive. When receiver Kendall Wright returns from injury, the Titans need to make sure Green-Beckham stays involved in the plan.
Defense steps up
Early on, it looked like it could be a long day for the defense. Saints quarterback Drew Brees was playing pitch and catch, and the Titans struggled to stop him. Then, the front seven began putting some pressure on him, and a young secondary stepped up. Linebacker Brian Orakpo had two sacks, and defensive lineman Angelo Blackson and linebacker Wesley Woodyard had one sack each. The Titans hit Brees seven times. Props to corners Coty Sensabaugh, Cody Riggs and B.W. Webb for doing their part on a defense that played without Jason McCourty and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and without Perrish Cox a good portion of the contest.