NASHVILLE, Tenn. —**Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota wasn't holding any grudges after a low hit on Sunday left him injured, and with a brace on his left knee.
His teammates – and head coach – weren't nearly as forgiving.
"It was (BS),'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said of the hit on Mariota. "I think it should be taken out of the game. It's not the way you play football. I think it was done with the idea of trying to hurt our quarterback, and that's (BS) football."
Mariota was injured early in the second quarter of the team's 38-10 loss to the Dolphins. On the play in question, Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon dove and hit Mariota on the back of his left leg after he released the football on a pass intended for receiver Kendall Wright.
Titans tackle Taylor Lewan saw it, and liked it about as much as Whisenhunt did.
"I think it is (BS) football,'' Lewan said. "I am so tired of people being politically correct because that is (BS). That is (expletive, expletive) to do that to a play, to a guy's career...(Vernon) was my guy, I blocked him. Marcus threw the ball and I saw Marcus throw the ball. And that guy jumped in his legs. Do I wish anything upon him? No. I should've blocked him longer...But that was awful."
Mariota stayed on the ground and was tended to by trainers. With the Titans trailing 10-3, back-up quarterback Zach Mettenberger ran on the field to replace Mariota. But Mariota got up, and following a conversation with Whisenhunt, the decision was made for him to stay in the game.
Vernon, who hit Mariota with his right shoulder, was flagged for roughing the passer.
After the game, Mariota said the fourth-year pro approached him to check on his condition. Mariota finished the game with a brace on his left knee.
"He came up to me and apologized,'' Mariota said of Vernon, who sacked Mariota on another play. "I don't think it was malicious at all."
Vernon defended himself after the game.
"I know one thing: it wasn't intentional," he said. "I've never been a dirty player my whole career, so why would I start now?"
Mariota gave credit to Miami's defensive line following a game when the Dolphins sacked him five times in the first half. Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake had four sacks. The Dolphins had six sacks on the day.
"They did a good job of coming off the ball,'' Mariota said. "That front is a veteran group and they did a good job. Hat's off to them, give them credit."
Mariota finished the game 21-of-33 for 219 yards and a touchdown, along with two interceptions. He posted a passer rating of 67.6.
Mariota said "I'm all right" when asked about the knee. Whisenhunt said he expects his quarterback to be sore this week, leading up to next Sunday's game against the Falcons.
Mettenberger replaced Mariota in the closing minutes.
In the eyes of his teammates, Mariota earned even more respect with his toughness, and willingness to play through the injury.
But no one liked what they saw on the hit.
"I usually don't speak on stuff like this, but if it was a different team...,'' Titans tight end Delanie Walker said of the low hit. "If it was Tom Brady or Peyton Manning -- that is what they made the Brady rule for – you cannot hit a quarterback low at his knees while he is throwing the ball, plain and simple.
"He could've ended our quarterback's season with that hit."