Marcus Mariota caught a touchdown pass Sunday.
Problem is, he didn't catch — or throw — three more, and the New York Jets rolled to a 30-8 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Four interesting things happened in that game, and all but one of them occurred on that play.
1. It wasn't a laser, but running back Antonio Andrews became the first Titans non-quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in more than 10 seasons, and Mariota became the first rookie quarterback to catch a touchdown pass since Kordell Stewart in 1995.
2. Safety Calvin Pryor, who was covering Mariota — well, for about 5 yards anyway, stumbled and made a diving tackle of … a patch of turf around the 27-yard line.
3. When the Titans scored to ruin the Jets' shutout bid, coach Todd Bowles looked as if someone spoiled the ending of The Usual Suspects and revealed Keyser Soze's identity.
The other interesting thing? The Titans forgot to cover Brandon Marshall, who has been very good at catching passes for a long time, and he scored a 69-yard touchdown. He is, after all, the only receiver in NFL history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a single season with four teams, so you might want to cover him.
Outside of his catch, Mariota had arguably his worst game of the season a week after throwing three touchdowns and running 87 yards for the go-ahead score in a 42-39 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Against the Jets, he completed 53.8 percent of his passes (his second-lowest single-game completion percentage), nearly lost a fumble for the second straight game and threw an interception (he was fortunate the Jets dropped two others).
It didn't help that Mariota was without Kendall Wright, the Titans' second-most targeted receiver, or that Tennessee fell behind 27-0 before the end of the first half.
The Jets defense came after the rookie, blitzing him on 70 percent of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. On the 32 dropbacks in which the Jets blitzed, Mariota completed just 52 percent of his passes. He was also sacked five times. Through 14 weeks, he is the sixth-most frequently sacked quarterback (8.8 percent of dropbacks).
Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense weren't much better as the New Orleans Saints, who allowed the Carolina Panthers to gain almost 500 total yards in Week 13, held them to 291, the fewest they've allowed all season. Against a defense that was allowing an average of almost three touchdown passes a game, Winston threw only one — and it was on a drive aided by three Saints penalties.
The Saints didn't blitz Winston (33 percent of his dropbacks) nearly as much the Jets blitzed Mariota, but their rush was effective enough. While the offensive line didn't allow a sack or a hit, it did allow 10 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bucs also had trouble pushing the ball down the field. Winston completed only three passes thrown more than 10 yards; he completed three such passes against the Atlanta Falcons. He averaged just 5.69 yards per attempt, his fewest in a game and about 2 yards under his season average of 7.48.
Like Mariota, Winston was without one of his top targets in Vincent Jackson, who left the game during the first half because of a knee injury and did not return. As has been the case throughout the season, the rest of the Bucs receiving corps struggled to hold on to the football. Mike Evans, Donteea Dye and Adam Humphries each dropped at least one pass, bringing the Bucs' season total to 29, by Pro Football Focus' count. Winston now ranks sixth among quarterbacks in passes dropped.
The Bucs' final possession was a neat representation of the offense's lack of execution. After Doug Martin ran for 24 yards on first down, Winston found Evans, open on a skinny post, but the pass bounced off his hands. On second down, Winston appeared to overthrow Charles Sims on a fly route down the left sideline. After the game, he suggested the throw was accurate but officials missed illegal contact.
"Actually 20 yards down the field, No. 59 (Dannell Ellerbe) hit Sims, and it slowed him down," Winston said. "So, yup, that throw probably would have been right on the money. But we didn't get the call. Like I said, there's a bunch of unfortunate things that happened out there, but we can't hurt ourselves, that's the main thing."
On third down, Winston hit Dye about 20 yards downfield over the middle, but he dropped it, and the Bucs punted.
"No one played their best ball," coach Lovie Smith said. "As a football team, we didn't play well. Every area, yes, we need to play better. Every, every area we didn't play well. It's kind of simple as that."
Passing charts (Week 11-14)
Mariota's 65.5 rating against the Jets was the worst of his career so far and dropped his overall rating from 95.1 to a season-low 91.9. Winston's overall rating barely moved and now sits at 85.4.
Through 14 weeks, Mariota ranks fifth and Winston ranks sixth among quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 1980. They trail Robert Griffin III (104.2), Ben Roethlisberger (97.6), Dan Marino (96) and Matt Ryan (92).
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR)
QBR is an ESPN metric that rates quarterbacks on a 0-100 scale.
A week after leading all quarterbacks with a 96.6 QBR, Mariota finished 27th with an 11.7 QBR, his second-worst rating of the season (8.3 vs. the Miami Dolphins in Week 6). Winston posted a middling 66.6 QBR, which is similar to his rating in the Bucs' Week 9 loss to the New York Giants. Despite his dismal performance, Mariota maintains an advantage of less than a point in overall QBR.
Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA)
Both Winston and Mariota saw a decline this week in their passing DVOA, a Football Outsiders metric that measures a quarterback's value on a per play basis relative to the league average. The formula factors in down, distance, situation and strength of opponent (QBR is not adjusted for strength of opponent). A positive percentage indicates an above-average player and a negative percentage indicates a below-average player.
Compared with NFL veterans, Winston's (minus-3.7 percent) and Mariota's (minus-10.6) DVOA ratings aren't impressive. In fact, if they were veterans, front offices, media and fans might be chattering about a slump, as is the case with Matt Ryan, a previously above-average quarterback season after season who has posted a below-average DVOA (minus-5.6 percent) in 2015. Or worse, they might be speculating about the necessity to look for another quarterback, as is the case with Brian Hoyer in Houston and Matthew Stafford in Detroit.
On a rookie scale, Winston and Mariota have played relatively well. So far, they're better than the top picks in 2013 and 2014.
|Player, team||Year drafted, round, pick||DVOA|
|Derek Carr, Oakland||2014, 2, 36||-14.9%|
|Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota||2014, 1, 32||-16.9%|
|Geno Smith, New York Jets||2013, 2, 39||-23.6%|
|Blake Bortles, Jacksonville||2014, 1, 3||-40.7%|
|Johnny Manziel, Cleveland||2014, 1, 22||-73.2%|
They won't, however, match the 2012 rookie seasons of Russell Wilson (19.7) and Robert Griffin III (16.6). Andrew Luck, the first overall draft pick, finished with a minus-5.1 DVOA, and Ryan Tannehill, the eighth overall pick, finished with a minus-9.9.
Thomas Bassinger can be reached at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.