Mariota's debut starts poorly, ends with promise

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota made his pro debut Friday in Atlanta, piloting three possessions that were sometimes impressive, sometimes calamitous, but never boring.

Much has been made of Mariota's interception-free training camp. That over-reported streak came to an end on the third pass of his first preseason game. Falcons linebacker Justin Durant darted into the middle of a screen formation and Mariota didn't see him, the result an interception return to inside the Titans' 10-yard line.

On the third play of Tennessee's next possession, the pocket collapsed around Mariota and he lost grip of the football, a fumble that was scooped and returned 14 yards for a score by Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow.

By the time Mariota came out for Tennessee's third possession, his team was down 17-0. Mariota then led the Titans on a drive that would salvage his night, completing five consecutive passes to guide Tennessee deep into Atlanta territory. The big throw of the drive came early, when Mariota hit Harry Douglass for a 17-yard gain on third and 12. The drive was capped by a 6-yard touchdown run on a toss to Dexter McCluster.

That was it for Mariota. His final line: 7-of-8 passing for 94 yards, one interception, one lost fumble and one sack. Mariota -- who rushed for over 2,000 yards at Oregon -- never fled the pocket and was credited with negative six yards rushing.

The Titans will take it. Their No. 2 overall pick got out of the game healthy and with some learning experience against a full-speed NFL defense. Mariota's start couldn't have been worse, but the finish gave plenty of reason for optimism going forward.

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