Mariota struggling as Titans head into critical game against Niners

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By JOSH DUBOW

The Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — In just two starts with San Francisco, Jimmy Garoppolo has shown the traits of becoming the franchise quarterback for the 49ers.

That’s just the kind of play the Tennessee Titans need out of their promising young quarterback Marcus Mariota down the stretch if they want to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

The usually reliable Mariota is in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his three-year career heading into the game Sunday between Tennessee (8-5) and San Francisco (3-10).

Mariota has thrown eight interceptions the past four games and has failed to reach 200 yards passing for three straight weeks as the Titans have dropped a game behind Jacksonville in the AFC South and have only a one-game cushion in the wild-card race.

Mariota had his worst game of the season in a 12-7 loss at Arizona, completing 16 of 31 passes for only 159 yards without a touchdown and being intercepted twice. The frustration boiled over into the postgame interview where Mariota apologized this week for acting “rude and inappropriate.”

“When you go through a tough game, it’s nice to get back on the field and go out there and play,” Mariota said. “It’s probably not a good thing to bottle (frustration) up all the time, but at the same time I was pretty upset with the way that I performed and I think it just carried over.”

Garoppolo has provided excitement in another rough season for the 49ers. Since taking over two weeks ago from rookie C.J. Beathard, Garoppolo has thrown for 627 yards to lead San Francisco to back-to-back wins and showed why the 49ers thought highly enough of him to deal a second-round pick to New England to acquire him at the trade deadline.

His performance has given a needed spark to a team that began the season with nine consecutive losses.

“Jimmy’s made some big plays, which does give guys confidence, it makes receivers have more fun down the field,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I think defense and special teams see that and feed off that just like the offense feeds off them.