What an amazing week one for the NFL season. The game pitting the worst two teams from 2014 featured the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners. Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston hosted Tennessee and Marcus Mariota.
If you didn’t see the outcome or the stats from that game, all you have to do is look at this week’s Sports Illustrated cover. Mariota graces the cover of SI for the second time in five months and the sixth time overall.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner completed 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards and 4 TDs, as the Titans raced to a 35-7 halftime lead. Mariota’s four TD passes came in the first half, and backup Zach Mettenberger replaced him in the second half, so Mariota’s day ended with just 16 pass attempts.
On his first touchdown pass, Mariota was aligned in the shotgun and apparently handed off to running back Bishop Sankey. Even the CBS announcer began his play-by-play of the play in question by saying, “Mariota, he gives it to…”
Mariota’s fake from the apparent zone read play forced the Buccaneer linebackers to freeze, while Kendall Wright found the hole in the secondary coverage. Mariota hit Wright in the seam of what looked like a cover 1 defense (man-to-man with a free safety), leading him perfectly and zipping the ball on a rope. Wright caught the ball in full stride without hesitation and then split defenders to finish the 52 yard play.
One play does not foretell a Hall of Fame career, but Mariota gave several more examples that he could be a legitimate future star. In earning NFL Player of The Week and Rookie Player of The Week honors, Mariota placed himself in some ritzy company.
Only one quarterback in the history of the NFL tossed four touchdown passes in his first game. That man was Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, who while playing for the expansion team Minnesota Vikings, did this in 1961 against the Chicago Bears. Tarkenton needed all four quarters to record the feat; Mariota did it in less than 30 minutes.
Mariota’s maximum QB rating for his first game has never been equaled in the history of the NFL back to 1933. No QB who threw at least 10 passes in his first game ever recorded a 158.3 rating in his first start.
What about an encore? Unless Josh McCown makes a miraculous recovery from a concussion and is cleared to play Sunday, Mariota gets to face the Heisman Trophy winner from the year before his adversary Winston. The Titans venture north to take on Johnny Football (Manziel) and the Cleveland Browns.
Thursday night gives the public a chance to view Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos taking on Kansas City. Manning’s season opener was a bit concerning for the Broncos. His 24-40-1 for 150 yards and 0 TD and a bad back have football pundits wondering if maybe the time has come for Manning to become a full-time pizzeria owner.
Those pundits are not seeing the entire field. The Broncos have a lot of problems, but Manning is not the primary concern. Yes, Manning has lost some zip on his passes, but Denver has many more worries, like a green offensive line, no running game, and just two quality receivers. Oh, and the Broncos were not playing against the Tampa Bay defense. Baltimore’s defense has produced a lot of long days for opposing quarterbacks.
Let’s at least get through September before we crown Mariota the next superstar and proclaim Manning’s career over.
This Week’s NFL PiRate Ratings
|Current NFL PiRate Ratings|
|N F C|
|A F C|
|N. Y. Jets||98.9||99.0||99.1||99.0||1-0-0||31||10|
|This Week’s Games|
|Date of Games:||September 17-21|
|New Orleans||Tampa Bay||12.7||7.2||13.7|