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Mariota both lucky and good in record-setting day

Marcus Mariota heaved quite possibly the worst pass of his young NFL career Sunday -- a deep wobbler that should have been intercepted.

Instead Saints defensive backs Keenan Lewis and Jairus Byrd collided going for the pick. The ball caromed to Delanie Walker, who chugged 61 yards for the touchdown, sparking the Titans' offense and helping lead Tennessee to a 34-28 overtime victory over New Orleans.

"Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good ..." the rookie quarterback said after missing the past two games with a knee injury, via The Tennessean. "The stands was the target, to be honest with you guys. They brought a lot of pressure, and honestly I was trying to throw it away. Right when I threw it, I knew I didn't put enough on it."

That play was lucky, but Mariota was plenty good Sunday, picking apart a weak Saints defense with a precision passing game. Mariota finished 28-of-39 passing for 371 yards, four touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

There is a notion that Ken Whisenhunt's job might have been saved if he'd had Mariota back on the field earlier. However, the most noticeable difference between Sunday and every other game coached by Whisnehunt was that the quarterback was not sacked (the Titans averaged four QB sacks allowed with Whiz this season).

"The guy is a hell of quarterback when he is protected," tackle Taylor Lewan said.

A combination of extra blockers and Mariota's quick release gave the Titans all the time they needed to get receivers open. The rookie did the rest from there.

The game-winning touchdown was a thing of beauty on every level. From Mike Mularkey's play call, to trusting the quarterback to roll out and throw back across the field, to Mariota's pristine lob, to Anthony Fasano not bumbling the win.

"It's something we've worked on this entire season," Mariota said of the play. "It's kind of been in our game plan the entire year. Fasano did a great job selling it, and guys up front did a great job selling it, and he just popped wide open."

Mariota superlatives:

»Set a Titans rookie record for passing TDs in a season (Vince Young, 12).

»The first rookie in NFL history to have at least 350 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a game.

»First rookie ever to have two different games with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

»Joined Tom Brady as the only NFL quarterbacks through nine weeks of the 2015 season to have multiple games (two each) with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

»Became the second quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 350 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime (Daunte Culpepper).

»Mariota became the first quarterback in Titans franchise history to throw a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.

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