It was a tough Sunday for Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
The rookie quarterbacks led offenses that reached the red zone once and the end zone twice. The Buccaneers and Titans scored a total of 20 points. Winston and Mariota threw a total of three interceptions. Neither threw a touchdown pass, but Winston did rush for a game-winning touchdown against the Cowboys.
Winston and the Bucs aren't necessarily having trouble moving the football. They reached New York Giants territory on eight of their 11 possessions in Week 9 and Cowboys territory on six of 10 possessions (not counting Winston's kneel at the end) Sunday.
They are, however, having trouble finishing drives. Against New York, the offense stalled, in part, because of drops. Against Dallas, the offense stalled because of catches, specifically two by Jeff Heath. Here's the problem with that: Heath is a safety for the Cowboys.
While Bucs receivers tipped the passes before Heath intercepted them, Winston wasn't a victim of bad luck. Both passes were inaccurate, thrown behind the intended targets.
The first interception, off the hands of tight end Brandon Myers, occurred on third-and-10 inside the Dallas 30-yard line with less than two minutes left in the second quarter. At the time, it was Winston's eighth interception this season — his first since Oct. 4 — and sixth on third down, well above the NFL team average.
Third down splits
|Comp %||TD||INT||QB rating|
|NFL team average||59.5||4.1||3.0||80.5|
Before the draft, Winston's critics pointed to his interception rate at Florida State as cause for concern. While there's not a strong correlation between college and NFL interception rates, as of now his rates are similar — 3.3 percent with the Seminoles and 3.2 percent with the Bucs, which is eighth-highest in the NFL (minimum 100 attempts). This doesn't mean Winston is destined to be a bust, but it's a trend worth monitoring.
In Tennessee, the Titans flatlined against the Carolina Panthers in a 27-10 loss, their 10th straight defeat at home. The Panthers held the Titans scoreless in the second half and allowed only 76 total yards. Tennessee hasn't scored at home in the second half since Oct. 18, when Mariota sustained a knee sprain that kept him out of two games.
Ball security on third down was also an issue for Mariota, who completed 16 of 24 passes for 185 yards, his lowest output of the season.
On a third-and-12 in the third quarter, safety Kurt Coleman intercepted Mariota when he, under pressure from linebacker Thomas Davis, threw a jump ball down the left sideline to Dorial Green-Beckham. It wasn't a well-thrown pass, but Green-Beckham didn't do much to break it up, either. On a third-and-8 in the fourth quarter, Mariota dropped a snap and ended up losing 10 yards. The Titans, who were within a touchdown, punted, and the Panthers tacked on a field goal on their ensuing possession. While Mariota has thrown three fewer interceptions than Winston, he has fumbled seven times and lost four of them.
If not for Cam Newton's touchdown celebration late in the fourth quarter, the game would have been quickly forgotten. Instead, the dance rankled Titans players and Internet protectors of end zone decorum. To those who live in a perpetual state of outrage, it was as abhorrent and unsightly as those red Starbucks cups.
One fan who took her 9-year-old child to the game decided to take a stand and sent a note to the Charlotte Observer. The Titans are so bad that most people in Tennessee would rather listen to a blender churn for three hours straight than attend a game, but it was the egotistical dancer who was the problem.
"The chest puffs. The pelvic thrusts. The arrogant struts and the 'in your face' taunting ... We saw it all."
Against the Cowboys, Winston posted his worst rating of the season (55.9). Yes, that's even worse than his two-interception performance in the season opener against the Titans (64.0) and his four-interception performance in Week 4 against the Panthers (57.0). His overall rating fell for the third week in a row and now stands at 80.1, just barely better than Jim McMahon at the same point in his career, according to our database of quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 1980.
After lighting up Rob Ryan's Saints defense and posting a 135.7 rating in Week 9, Mariota earned a 72.4 rating against the formidable Panthers defense. His overall rating fell from 101.8 to 98.3, which trails Dan Marino's 102.7 and Ben Roethlisberger's 101.3 through the first 10 weeks of their careers.
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR)
ESPN's QBR rates quarterbacks on a 0-100 scale. Mariota (37.2, 21st) and Winston (33.6, 23rd) both failed to crack the top 20 for the first time in a non-bye week since Week 3. Although Winston's three-week QBR lead over Mariota came to a close, they're nearly identical overall, with Mariota's 56.1 edging Winston's 55.5.
Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA)
Mariota leads in quarterback rating and QBR, but Winston is still out in front in Football Outsider's DVOA metric, which measures a quarterback's value on a per play basis relative to the league average. The formula factors in down, distance and situation. Throughout the season, the formula also adjusts for strength of opponent, which QBR does not do. A positive percentage indicates an above-average player and a negative percentage indicates a below-average player.
Winston's DVOA, which fell from minus-4.6 percent to minus-5.5 percent, ranks 20th, behind Cleveland's Josh McCown (minus-4.7) and Seattle's Russell Wilson (minus-4.8) but ahead of Miami's Ryan Tannehill (minus-7.2). Mariota's DVOA, which fell from minus-6.8 to minus-7.3, ranks 22nd.
Thomas Bassinger can be reached at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.