You know those days when you wake up, sore, feeling like garbage, and the last thing you want to do is go to work, but you do anyway because people are counting on you?
On Monday night, the Tennessee Titans quarterback was dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out last week. Mariota clearly isn't 100 percent. He didn't move well in or out of the pocket Monday night. The elusive playmaker couldn't even attempt to run, which is one of his most electric traits. It was obvious why he didn't play the previous game (if this was after rest, what would he have looked like before?). Yet it was obvious even a 57 percent Mariota is 100 times better than a 100 percent Matt Cassel.
So Mariota gutted out a 36-22 must-have home win over division rival Indianapolis Colts. His teammates love the QB for putting it on the line for them.
"The guy is a complete stud," tackle Taylor Lewan added of his quarterback. "That guy is pretty all-time."
Despite not looking healthy, Mariota finished 23-of-32 passing (71.9 completion percentage) for 306 yards, including a gorgeous 53-yard touchdown bomb to Taywan Taylor, and an interception, while taking just one sack. The Titans called for Mariota to get the ball out of his hands quickly, and the quarterback made smart reads as Tennessee rallied from a second-half deficit.
To succeed in the NFL, teams must win games in less-than-optimal conditions during a grueling regular season. Having your elusive quarterback hamstrung certainly qualifies as suboptimal. Yet Mariota and the Titans made enough plays to scrap their way to 3-3 and a tie atop the AFC South. If the quarterback's hamstring continues to progress, the division title is theirs for the taking.