Marcus Mariota sets records in career debut

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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Rejoice, football fans. We're just one Sunday into the 2015 season, and already we've seen spectacular, unexpectedly dominant performances on the road. While some favorites disappointed (Seahawks, Colts), most traveling teams impressed, specifically the Chiefs and Bengals who already look like postseason threats in the AFC -- cue the overreaction siren. Home teams barely broke .500, finishing 7-6, thanks to a Giant(s) meltdown in Dallas, and save for the Jets' mauling of Johnny Football's Browns, no away team lost by more than two touchdowns.

All in all, there were some good showings by away squads, but three individual road warriors stood out from the pack:

Greatest on the Road winner ...


Marcus Mariota


Fans in attendance at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday were witnesses to history. The top two picks of the 2015 draft were making their NFL debuts against one another in a matchup that would define the rest of their careers -- or the rest of the week, at the very least. Jameis Winston had the home-field advantage, a bigger arm and more proven playmakers on offense, but it was Mariota who had the last laugh.

The Titans rookie set multiple records in his bow, becoming the first player in NFL history to throw four touchdown passes in the first half of his NFL debut. The Flying Hawaiian finished with more scores than incompletions (three) and posted a perfect passer rating (158.3). Mariota was so dominant that Ken Whisenhunt decided to sit the rookie in the fourth quarter of the Titans' 42-14 victory, which was also indicative how poorly Winston and the Bucs performed.

Mariota "won the day", as Oregon Ducks do, and also won over many critics, who said he couldn't succeed under center in the pros.


» Inside Slant: Mariota can shatter spread-QB stereotypes


Runners up


James Jones

Turn back the clock, cheeseheads: it's 2012 all over again and James Jones is winning games for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Where did I park my DeLorean?

A week after being cut by the Giants -- bad move, Jerry Reese -- Jones signed back with his former team and wasted no time paying dividends. He was acquired to replace Jordy Nelson, who will miss the season with a torn ACL, and did so with flying colors. The 31-year-old veteran caught two touchdown passes from Rodgers, including one athletic grab over Bears cornerback Alan Ball and a 34-yard bomb up the seam. He finished with four catches for 51 yards, taking notable pressure off of Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.

James is no stranger to Packers-Bears rivalry games at Soldier Field, so it was no surprise that Rodgers trusted Jones on a one-yard slant route touchdown toss in the third quarter, which put Green Bay ahead for good. Jones' veteran presence, something now missing at the Packers' skill positions, won Green Bay the opener and, in filling Nelson's shoes, has Rodgers' offense moving like usual.

Tyler Eifert


Yes, the Raiders weren't the most formidable of opening day opponents, but the Black Hole is always an intimidating place to play, which makes Tyler Eifert's return to competitive football all the more impressive.

After missing nearly all of 2014 with an elbow injury, Eifert tore up the Oakland secondary to the tune of nine receptions and 104 receiving yards, both career highs. In fact, the tight end's two touchdown receptions Sunday matched his career total. Eifert's breakout game is either a sign that he will be a major addition to the Bengals' offense in 2015, drawing coverage away from A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, or it's indicative of how outmatched and undersized Raiders cornerbacks and safeties were -- we like to think it's a healthy mix of both.

Heed our words, Andy Dalton. If you want to earn your $115 million contract and quiet Bengals fans' cries to start AJ McCarron, throw the ball high, up the middle and in the direction of Eifert. You won't be sorry.

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