The Tennessee Titans lost a close one to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday by a final score of 19-17.

Despite several good opportunities to take multiple possession leads in the second half, the offense could not take advantage. QB Marcus Mariota, who completed 19 passes for only 154 yards, was at the center of their issues.

In the second game of a contract year, Mariota reminded everyone why he has not gotten a contract extension, and why the Titans might be in the quarterback market during the offseason. The same issues that have plagued the Titans’ QB throughout his career—mental errors and an inability to push the ball downfield—are still with him in 2019.

Third Down Woes

Mariota was at his worst in the most crucial situations against the Colts. The Titans offense converted a putrid one of their 10 third downs, leading to a litany of punts and missed opportunities.

“We have to do better on third down,” head coach Mike Vrabel said. “I think when you get into drives, you can’t dictate the tempo if you’re not converting on those critical possession downs. We’ll have to figure something out here in a hurry so we can do that when we go to Jacksonville on Thursday night.”

On a few of those third down plays, Mariota was sacked. Overall, his pass protection held up well, but he held the ball for way too long on numerous occasions.

“Sometimes, just learning to get rid of the ball is probably the best play,” Mariota said.

Lack of Growth

If words like that had come from the mouth of a rookie or even a second-year QB, all would be well. It would perhaps even be expected.

But for a fifth-year starter who’s making over $20 million? The words are tired.

Mariota’s major problems as a quarterback have become akin to a broken record, as have the excuses that he is often allowed. A lot of Titans fans have opted to believe during his career with the team that Mariota is not a subpar signal-caller who has never achieved his ceiling, but rather the victim of mismanagement.

So, this offseason, the Titans got rid of all of the excuses.

They went out and got him weapons, bringing in receivers Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown. They promoted from within to fill a vacancy at offensive coordinator, allowing Mariota to have some continuity at that spot for only the second time in his career.

And with all of the excuses gone, Mariota is still struggling. He’s still holding onto the ball too long, missing open receivers, and still refusing to push the ball downfield.

Basically, he’s making the same mistakes he’s been making since his second year in the league, which is really the last time Mariota showed any growth as a player.

Dinking and Dunking…

The one time on Sunday that Mariota tried to throw a deep ball was on a play where TE Delanie Walker was blanketed in double coverage.

“You’ve got to give our guys an opportunity, a chance to make a play, but at the same time, you’ve got to understand the risk and the reward,” Mariota said. “I believe in our guys, and I believe that if I throw them up a 50-50 ball, they’ll come down with it.”

There’s a problem with that: Mariota doesn’t put that professed belief into practice.

Mariota loves to talk about the idea of someone needing to “make a play,” but he frequently refuses to give his teammates on offense that opportunity. No one’s going to make a play when you dink and dunk the ball down the field for 60 minutes, as evidenced by Mariota’s brutal average of 5.5 yards per attempt.

If Mariota wants to be wearing a Titans uniform next season and beyond, and if he wants his team to be anything more than the slightly-above-average 9-7 squad they’ve been for the last three years, he needs to be a lot better moving forward.

Cover image: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today

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