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Football Daily Dose

Dose: Mariota Shines in Return

by Jesse Pantuosco
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

At one point in Monday night’s game, ESPN’s Jon Gruden called Marcus Mariota a “man playing with a flat tire.” Flat or not, Mariota got the job done in his MNF debut as the Titans snapped their 11-game losing streak to the Colts on the strength of a stellar second half. Their fourth quarter was particularly impressive as the Titans scored 21 of their 36 points in the game’s final period.


Mariota said after the game that he knew he’d be able to play by Wednesday or Thursday after sitting out last week’s game with an injured hamstring. But the rest of us didn’t know until 90 minutes before Monday night’s 8:30 PM ET start, though the tea leaves suggested he would play after putting in a limited week of practice. Mariota took the field on Monday night, but it wasn’t the Mariota any of us are used to seeing. Normally one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the game, the third-year signal-caller was confined almost exclusively to the pocket to prevent him from doing any further damage to his bad hamstring. Mariota looked tentative early in the contest but strengthened as the game went on, saving his best for last with a dominant fourth quarter (6-for-6, 103 yards, one touchdown).


After Adam Vinatieri drilled a 52-yard field goal to tie the game at 22, Mariota took matters into his own hands by threading the needle on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Taywan Taylor with 5:29 remaining in the fourth quarter. The touchdown was the first of Taylor’s career on only his seventh catch. Mariota finished the evening with a season-high 306 passing yards, giving him his first 300-yard passing game since Week 9 of last season.


The concern for Mariota coming out of college was how he would adapt to a more conventional offense after thriving in Oregon’s up-tempo scheme. Monday’s outing seemed to answer that as Mariota delivered a winning effort despite rarely venturing outside the pocket. His two carries, including a key fourth-down conversion on a QB sneak to begin the fourth quarter, were his fewest of the season. ESPN’s Sean McDonough correctly diagnosed that a hobbled Mariota is still a far more appealing option than backup Matt Cassel, who tanked while filling in against the Dolphins in Week 5 (21-for-32, 141 yards, one touchdown).  


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Monday gave the 3-3 Titans a much-needed win while also serving as a jumping-off point for embattled veteran Eric Decker. The former Jet has mostly been a non-factor this year but impressed by corralling seven catches for a season-high 88 yards with 61 of those coming after halftime. That’s almost as many yards as Decker had in his previous three games combined. Decker is still looking for his first touchdown of the year but his increased role in Week 6 would suggest better times are ahead.


Tennessee’s backfield has been a continued source of frustration for fantasy owners this year. Just when it looked like Derrick Henry was ready to make the leap, veteran DeMarco Murray took back the upper hand by out-touching Henry 18-4 against the Dolphins in Week 5. On the heels of his lightest workload of the season, OC Terry Robiskie promised more carries for Henry in Week 6. Robiskie delivered on that promise as the former Heisman Trophy winner turned a career-high 19 carries into 131 yards and a touchdown. Henry put the finishing touches on Tennessee’s victory by rumbling to a 72-yard back-breaker with just 47 seconds remaining. Henry garnered more yards on that single run (a career-long) than he had in his previous three games combined (70 yards on 23 carries).


Meanwhile Murray limped to 40 yards on 12 carries, though he did punch in a goal-line touchdown to take back the lead from Indianapolis late in the third quarter. Murray has been hampered by a hamstring injury for much of the year and looked far less than 100 percent throughout Monday’s contest. The Titans would be wise to scale back Murray’s workload (or sit him altogether) next week in what should be a cupcake matchup against the winless Browns.  


Monday added another loss to the Colts’ tally as Indianapolis fell to 2-4 without Andrew Luck, who is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Jacoby Brissett played well for stretches in Monday’s loss but melted down in the second half by completing just nine-of-20 passes for 93 yards after the break. Brissett didn’t get much love from his pass-catchers, including safety valve Jack Doyle, who dropped two balls while also committing a costly fumble. Doyle did score the Colts’ only offensive touchdown (they also got into the end zone on a third-quarter pick-six) on an eight-yard screen from Brissett early in the second quarter. Donte Moncrief chipped in with a team-high 67 yards but had a sure touchdown clank off his hands on Indy’s opening drive, forcing the Colts to settle for a 36-yard field goal. Moncrief was a touchdown wizard in 2016 with seven scores across nine appearances but has so far found the end zone just once this season.


Marlon Mack burst onto the fantasy scene with a 91-yard breakout in last week’s victory over the Niners. There would be no repeat performance in Week 6, however, as the rookie was inexplicably held to just two carries in Monday night’s 36-22 defeat. Mack was overshadowed by 34-year-old Frank Gore, who led the backfield with 49 yards on 10 carries. Gore also soaked up two catches for 18 yards on three targets. T.Y. Hilton, fresh off a herculean effort in Week 5 (seven catches for 177 yards) was rendered invisible against the Titans, managing just one catch for a season-low 19 yards. He could be in for another lean week with Jalen Ramsey (PFF’s No. 3 corner out of 112 qualifiers) and the Jaguars coming to town next Sunday.


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Quick Hits: Jameis Winston is day-to-day with a sprained AC joint in his right (throwing shoulder). Winston is likely to play through the injury, but if he can’t, Ryan Fitzpatrick would start for him Sunday against Buffalo … Sunday’s loss to the Giants was a costly one for Denver. Emmanuel Sanders suffered a sprained ankle and will miss Week 7. Trevor Siemian also needed an MRI after injuring his shoulder on a second-quarter pick-six (he was trying to tackle Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins) but he should be a go for this week’s game against the Chargers … 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed that C.J. Beathard will be the starting quarterback for Week 7 versus Dallas. Beathard, a third-round rookie out of Iowa, threw for 245 yards after Brian Hoyer was benched in Sunday’s overtime loss to Washington … It didn’t take long for Navorro Bowman to resurface after being cut by the Niners on Friday. The four-time All-Pro selection went across the bay to Oakland, signing a one-year, $3 million pact with the Raiders. Bowman has had a rough year by his standards, earning PFF’s No. 44 grade out of 52 qualifiers at inside linebacker … Derek Carr looked tentative in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers but claims he wasn’t limited by his back injury. “It had nothing to do with my back," said Carr. "There was no talk of trying to get the ball out of my hands or to not take hits or anything like that” … The Packers signed Joe Callahan off their practice squad on Monday. He’ll serve as the backup to Brett Hundley, who is starting in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers (broken collarbone). Coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers have no interest in signing free agent Colin Kaepernick, who recently filed a collusion grievance against the NFL … Browns coach Hue Jackson will wait until Wednesday to announce the starting quarterback for this week’s game against the Titans. Kevin Hogan got the nod over DeShone Kizer in Week 6 but struggled mightily in a loss to Houston (20-for-37, 140 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions) … Teddy Bridgewater, who has missed more than a year while recovering from a torn ACL and a dislocated knee, will resume practicing on Wednesday. Once he begins practicing, the Vikings will have a three-week window to activate him from the PUP list … Golden Tate is expected to miss a few weeks after injuring his shoulder in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans. Tate celebrated his second touchdown of the year in that game by dropping The People’s Elbow … The Bills still consider Jordan Matthews day-to-day, though he’s yet to catch a pass since undergoing thumb surgery earlier this month. The contract-year wideout has caught 10-of-13 targets for 162 yards and a touchdown this season … Leonard Fournette bowed out with an ankle injury late in Week 6 but is on track to play Sunday against Indianapolis. The fourth overall pick in April’s draft has scored a touchdown in every game this season … Reports surfaced Sunday that Martavis Bryant was seeking a trade but he’s since refuted that claim. He’s had a difficult time in his return from a year-long suspension, nabbing just 17-of-34 targets for 231 yards and one touchdown … Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond clarified that Luke Kuechly is still in the concussion protocol, which contradicted an earlier report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. If Kuechly did indeed suffer a concussion, it would be his third in as many seasons.

Jesse Pantuosco
Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.