Marcus Mariota vs. Oakland Raiders: 17/37, 218 Yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs

Marcus Mariota is having the typical QB rookie season in the NFL.  He has had is ups (Perfect passer rating against the Buccaneers and outplaying Drew Bress in New Orleans) and his downs (Back to back poor games against the Bills and Dolphins) throughout the season.  Altogether, his stats show that he is having an overall solid season as he is 19th in yards per game (249.3), 20th in Completion Percentage (62.8), 15th in TDs (16), 14th in Passer Rating (92.8), and has only thrown 8 INTs in 9 games played.  His last game against the Oakland Raiders was one of his lows as it was his first game all season that he didn’t complete over 50% of his passes.  This was surprising to me as the Raiders have one of the worst pass defense in the league on the surface as they are 29th in passing yards per game allowed (282.7).  But the rest of their stats are respectable as they are 14th in Y/A allowed (7.1) and completion percentage (62.6), 16th in TD allowed (19), T-9th in INTs (11), and 15th in passer rating allowed (87.8).  This article dives into the film to see why Mariota struggled against an underrated but average Oakland Raiders secondary despite the three touchdown passes.  This isn’t going to be a full out criticism of Mariota like previous articles I have written.  I want to make this more of an evaluation of what he is doing right and wrong and point out what he should improve on because he is a rookie in his 9th game of his NFL career.

1st Quarter

Pass #1

Situation: 1st and 10 TEN 20
Description: Q1-(15:00) M. Mariota Pass Incomplete Short Left to H. Douglas (D. Autry)

QB Marcus Mariota (#8) does not get much help on this play by his receivers as none of them get open quickly.  Mariota’s first read on this five-step drop pass was to TE Craig Stevens (#88) on the curl route.  MLB Curtis Lofton (#50) sits on the curl route and takes it away.  Mariota does go through his progression and goes to WR Harry Douglas (#83) on the curl as his second read.  CB Travis Carrie (#38) is playing off coverage in his Cover 3 deep zone but is not giving Douglas a cushion, leading to Douglas running into him.  I’m going to give Mariota the benefit of the doubt here and say he sees that Carrie is going to commit the holding penalty/pass interference on Douglas as Douglas tries to turn on the curl route.  Carrie does hold Douglas on the curl so Mariota actually makes a great read here going to Douglas.  Mariota tries to drive this ball downwards so Douglas is the only one who can catch a low pass in case the penalty is not called.  But he has to try to throw this ball through a wall as DE Denico Autry (#96) on the stunt and DT Justin Ellis (#78) are both in the throwing lane.  He gets it over Ellis, but Autry gets his hands in the way to knock the ball down.  Mariota’s read is a good one, but his throw selection helps lead to the ball getting tipped at the line of scrimmage.  If Mariota just tries to get it in the area with Douglas and throw it over Autry, he is going to get Carrie on the pass interference and pick up the first down.  (0/1)

Pass #2

Situation: 3rd and 8 TEN 22
Description: Q1-(14:14) M. Mariota Pass Incomplete Deep Left to K. Wright

WR Kendall Wright (#13) had been out for the last three games with a sprained ankle coming into this game.  Combine that with the two games Mariota (#8) missed with a sprained knee and it’s apparent that Mariota and Wright have not had a lot of game time together.  This shows on this play as there is a clear miscommunication between Wright and Mariota.  Mariota’s first read is to Douglas (#83) on the seam route but CB Neiko Thorpe (#31) has tight coverage and S Charles Woodson (#24) is playing over the top of the seam route.  Mariota wisely comes off of his first read and looks at Wright.  CB David Amerson (#29) is slow to following Wright on the pre-snap motion so he has a lot of work to do to recover on Wright.  Wright sees that Amerson is playing over the top of him in his man coverage so he stops his go route short and goes into a curl route.  I don’t think Mariota knows what Wright is going to do when he is looking at Wright’s route as he double clutches before making the throw.  With more experience and practice time, this is a first down for the Titans as Mariota hits Wright on the curl route.  Instead, Mariota throws like Wright is supposed to keep going on the go route and the ball lands incomplete.  Part of what threw off Mariota may have been due to panic about the pass rush.  Rookie DE Mario Edwards Jr. (#97) is coming on the stunt from the LDT position and LT Taylor Lewan (#77) doesn’t pick up Edwards till he is in Mariota’s face.  The coaches talk to Wright immediately after the play like he was in the wrong but I think Wright made a heads up route break and Mariota and he need experience together to make this route work.  (0/2)

Pass #3

Situation: 2nd and 7 TEN 11
Description: Q1-(12:18) M. Mariota Pass Short Right to A. Fasano to TEN 16 for 5 Yards (D. Amerson)

Mariota (#8) only has to go to his first read on this play and makes the right read and throw.  The Raiders are in a Cover 3 zone and OLB Malcolm Smith (#53) is responsible for the flat zone.  He has to respect the flare route of RB Antonio Andrews (#26) out of the backfield, opening up a hole in the zone coverage.  With TE Delanie Walker (#82) occupying Lofton (#50) on his curl route, TE Anthony Fasano (#80) is able to sit in the void in the zone.  Mariota’s first read is to Fasano and he doesn’t hesitate to throw it to Fasano to make it 3rd and short.  This isn’t a hard read or throw to make, but I like the decisiveness of the throw as he plants and throws as soon as he is at the top of his dropback.  (1/3, 5 Yards)

Pass #4

Situation: 3rd and 2 TEN 16
Description: Q1-(11:39) M. Mariota Pass Incomplete Short Middle to K. Wright (T. Carrie)

This is the first pass that scream that Mariota (#8) is a rookie QB in the NFL.  Mariota’ first read is to Wright (#13) on the slant route.  Carrie (#38) is playing press coverage against Wright and doesn’t give up inside leverage on the slant route.  There is nowhere for Mariota to throw this pass to Wright and yet he tries to force the pass in.  He throws the pass after he does a double clutch though which shows he isn’t confident in being able to throw a completion to Wright.  Mariota will learn as he grows up in the league (hopefully) that if he double clutches on a throw, he should just move on to the next read instead of forcing the ball.  If he goes to his next read, he would have seen that Fasano (#80) is open on his slant route as rookie MLB Ben Heeney (#51) is caught watching the QBs eyes and doesn’t follow Fasano on his route.  Instead, Mariota tries to force the pass into Wright and Carrie knocks the pass down.  (1/4, 5 Yards)

Pass #5

Situation: 1st and 10 TEN 12
Description: Q1-(8:23) M. Mariota Pass Deep Left to D. Walker Pushed Out of Bounds at TEN 48 for 36 Yards (T. Carrie)

While Mariota (#8) does everything right on this play decision making and throw placement, his mechanics on this drop back concern me.  After Mariota does the play action fake and turns around, he sets up in the pocket with his body facing where he wants to throw the ball.  Safeties already do a good enough job reading the eyes of a QB in the NFL, giving them the whole body is making it too easy.  Mariota needs to be at least close to perpendicular to the line of scrimmage at the top of his drop to not give away where he is throwing the ball.  Now on to the good things.  Mariota’s first read is to Walker (#82) on the deep dig route.  I like that he doesn’t look short first to Douglas (#83) on the flare route coming off the play action fake and is looking to attack deep.  Loften (#50) doesn’t get any depth in his zone drop (and doesn’t have a clue where Walker is) and with S Nate Allen (#20) having  to get depth in his deep middle drop due to the post route of WR Dorial Green-Beckham (#17), there is a big gap for Walker to run into.  Mariota does a good job waiting for Walker to get into this hole in the coverage despite Ellis (#78) bearing down on him in the pass rush and throws a great pass to hit Walker on the run for a big gain.  His throwing mechanics is off as he threw off his back foot due to the pass rush of Ellis, but he has enough arm strength to get the ball out to Walker.  (2/5, 41 Yards)

Pass #6

Situation: 1st and 10 TEN 48
Description: Q1-(7:51) M. Mariota Pass Short Right to H. Douglas Push Out of Bounds at OAK 41 for 11 Yards (T. Carrie)

There isn’t much to talk about here as this play is as simple of a read and throw that Mariota (#8) will have to make in his career.  Coming off the play action fake, he bootlegs to his right and has a two man read as Green-Beckham (#17) is running the comeback route and Douglas (#83) runs the arrow route underneath Green-Beckham.  Carrie (#38) overcommits to the slant action of Douglas’ arrow route and Douglas is wide open underneath.  With Amerson (#29) playing Green-Beckham tight, this is an easy read for Mariota and he makes the right decision to go to Douglas.  He makes an accurate throw to Douglas and the Titans pick up a first down.  (3/6, 52 Yards)

Pass #7

Situation: 1st and 10 OAK 41
Description: Q1-(7:11) M. Mariota Pass Short Left to D. Walker to OAK 35 for 6 Yards (M. Smith)

I like the courage Mariota (#8) shows under pressure in the pocket and his use of eyes on this play.  Mariota is looking off the defense to his right as he does the fake draw handoff before coming to his left in his progression.  This is promising to see for a rookie QB as it shows that he is at least working on looking off a defense with his eyes and that with time it may become natural to him.   Mariota’s first read is to Walker (#82) on the curl route and it’s the only read that Mariota has time to look at as the pass rush is on top of him quickly.  Autry (#96) beats RG Chance Warmack (#70) on the inside move and is in Mariota’s face immediately.  Walker is open for Mariota to throw to as he has gotten between Smith (#53) in man coverage and DE Benson Mayowa (#95) in his hook zone coverage.  This is partly due to Mariota’s eyes early in the play as he kept Mayowa from drifting to his right in his zone drop.  Mariota is again throwing off his back foot due to the pass rush, but he throws a perfect pass to Walker to beat the coverage for a good gain on first down.  (4/7, 58 Yards)

Pass #8

Situation: 1st and 10 OAK 20
Description: Q1-(5:58) M. Mariota Pass Deep Middle to C. Stevens for 20 Yards and Touchdown

If I had to pick one play to show that Mariota is going to make it in the NFL, this would be on the list of plays I would consider.  Mariota’s primary read is to Stevens (#88) on the seam route but Mariota instead looks at Walker (#82) on the seam route.  Woodson (#24) is playing the deep middle and is reading Mariota’s eyes.  Woodson slides to his right to take away Walker, opening up the seam route for Stevens.  Stevens has beaten Allen (#20) to the inside but Allen is still in decent position to make a play on the ball.  Mariota looks back to Stevens, sees an opportunity for a touchdown, and rips it to Stevens.  The throw has to fit through a small window and Mariota throws it through that window perfectly as the ball is high and on Steven’s inside shoulder.  Stevens is able to tip it to himself for the touchdown and will get the praise for a great catch but without Mariota’s eyes, Stevens never gets a chance to catch this ball.  (5/8, 78 yards, 1 TD)

Pass #9

Situation: 3rd and 4 TEN 26
Description: Q1-(0:09) M. Mariota Pass Incomplete Deep Left to H. Douglas. Penalty on TEN-Q. Spain, Offensive Holding, Declined

I honestly think Mariota (#8) is confused on this play as he had open receivers in multiple places.  The Raiders are in a Tampa 2 and one of the weaknesses Tampa 2 is the deep outside if the safety is slow getting to the outside.  The Titans have a perfect route called against this coverage as Douglas (#83) is running the corner route.  He gets behind Thorpe (#31) and outside of Allen (#20) quickly and is open for a big gain.  Mariota doesn’t wait for Douglas to open up and instead looks back to his right to the dig route of Green-Beckham.  This is not going to be open against a Tampa 2 and Woodson (#24) is sitting on the dig route.  If Mariota isn’t going to throw it to Douglas, he should have looked at the slant route of Wright (#13) or the arrow route of Walker (#82) and find the hole in the zone.  Wright ends up being open in the middle of the field for a first down as Heeney (#51) is bailing to the deep middle and Smith (#53) expands into his hook coverage.  Mariota never sees it though and instead holds the ball waiting for Green-Beckham to open up.  By the time he looks away from Green-Beckham, the pass rush is on him as Edwards Jr. (#97) has beaten LG Quinton Spain (#60) on a rip move and forces Mariota to flush out to his left.  Mayowa (#95) chases Mariota and forces him to throw the ball away.  If Mariota is more patient on his read to Douglas or goes through his progression from left to right, this play would have been a first down.  Instead, he looked confused and cost his team a first down.  (5/9, 78 Yards, 1 TD)

For the 2nd Quarter throws, click on the next page