Teammates, coaches praise Mariota for ‘big-time’ block
By TERESA M. WALKER
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Derrick Henry heard Marcus Mariota throw his shoulder into Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree to clear the corner for the Titans running back.
Tennessee safety Kevin Byard saw the block from the sideline.
Watching replays sure makes the block from the Titans quarterback look even more punishing.
“Oh, that was huge man, that was huge,” Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said Tuesday. “I told Marcus that was a big-time block. You don’t normally see quarterbacks throw their bodies like that, but yeah that was big time man. Teams appreciate when your quarterback is willing to throw his body in like that. Don’t do it all the time, though, because we need him.”
Mariota has been criticized in his four-year NFL career for being too quiet or not very expressive on the field. His teammates, who also remember his block for Henry in a playoff victory last January in Kansas City, have no such questions about their quarterback.
“People question that guy, I don’t know why he continues to be an emphasis of concern,” Taylor Lewan said.
“I mean he obviously puts 100 percent in the game every single game, and I’ve said I’d do anything for that guy. I think this whole line would. So proud that he’s our quarterback, and he is so humble I asked him about the play and he’s like, ‘No I was just trying to get in the way.’ He smacked him too, and that’s a linebacker, which is pretty cool.”
The Titans (8-6) need their quarterback as they chase a second straight playoff berth. They’ve won three straight and need to win out with their next game Saturday hosting Washington (7-7).
Mariota, with a record of 26-28, has had eight of his 12 game-winning drives since the start of the 2017 season.
The Saint Louis School graduate has used his arm and legs this season. He has a career-high 350 yards rushing on 63 attempts this season with two touchdowns rushing. Despite being sacked a career-high 40 times, Mariota has a 91.9 passer rating, completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 2,418 yards with 11 TDs and eight interceptions.
“The guy’s a highlight reel,” Lewan said of his quarterback.
Mariota trotted out far left near the Titans’ sideline on first-and-10 while Henry lined up in the wildcat. After the snap, Henry ran toward the line, then bounced out left. As Henry ran toward him, Mariota put his shoulder into Ogletree and knocked the linebacker to the ground as Henry turned up the sideline for a 22-yard run with 12:29 left in the second quarter.
The quarterback says he noticed teammates were pretty fired up by his block, something he didn’t think much about.
“I was just trying to help my guy out and give him a chance to go make a run,” Mariota said.
None of the Titans’ coaches asked the quarterback to be a little more cautious next time. Coach Mike Vrabel called Mariota’s block something they can teach from because the hit was clean with good form as the quarterback kept his head out of the way while avoiding a hit to Ogletree’s head or neck.
“It sends a message that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Vrabel said.