Mariota, Titans make playoffs
Win over Jacksonville brings end to eight-year postseason drought
By TERESA M. WALKER
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans linebackers Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard had a little talk with Marcus Mariota, encouraging their quarterback to run whenever he had a chance.
Mariota did just that Sunday.
Mariota had his best game running since a broken right leg ended his season a year ago, and he helped the Titans end an eight-season playoff drought by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 15-10 on Sunday to clinch the AFC’s first wild-card berth.
Orakpo called it an unbelievable feeling as the nine-year pro finally is headed to his first NFL postseason.
“I didn’t want to be on a Southwest flight back to Texas tomorrow wondering, ‘What if,’ ” Orakpo said.
The Titans (9-7) snapped a three-game skid to earn the No. 5 seed and a wild-card meeting Saturday at Kansas City.
Mariota ran a season-high 10 times for 60 yards, the biggest a 13-yard scramble on third-and-5 at the 2:00 mark that included a big stiff arm. The Saint Louis School graduate also threw for 134 yards, including a touchdown pass on a screen that Derrick Henry took 66 yards to the end zone.
“When I looked into his eyes, he had those Oregon eyes like he did back in college, running around making plays,” Orakpo said of Mariota. “I think me and Wood got in his head a little bit — in a positive way. We talked to him like, ‘If you see something, take off, man.’ We had a nice little talk, and it just paid off the way he was digging down deep.”
The Titans didn’t call many designed runs for Mariota.
“For them to bring me aside and talk to me about just playing my game meant a lot to me,” Mariota said of Orakpo and Woodyard.
Ryan Succop also kicked three field goals.
The Titans sacked Blake Bortles twice and forced four turnovers, two interceptions by Kevin Byard.
The Jaguars (10-6), who clinched their first AFC South title a week ago, only sat left tackle Cam Robinson and wide receiver Marqise Lee — both were on the injury report this week.
“The good part about this is we’re going home,” coach Doug Marrone said. “Whenever you have adversity in life and what you do, there’s always that comfort of going home. We’ve earned the opportunity to play a home playoff game.”