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LeLei Mariota – Positive Passing Film – Titans Week 7 (Browns)

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Welcome to another week of film breakdowns for the Tennessee Titans.  Today, we break down the Week 7 win against the Cleveland Browns in overtime.  This isn’t the game to put on the highlight reel for this season, but a win is a win.  In this article, I will look at the positive plays from Marcus Mariota, and then leave links at the bottom for the other sections involved this week.   As usual, I appreciate feedback and suggestions so feel free to leave a comment.  

LeLei Mariota:



This is the first pass of the game, and it goes for 18 yards to Rishard Matthews.  The Browns are in zone cover with two deep safeties, and this play is a very simple read for Mariota.  The read on this play is the slot linebacker that is covering Eric Decker.  If the linebacker falls back towards Matthews, therefore leaving the outside corner with the responsibility of covering the slot receiver, then the throw goes to Decker.  The outside cornerback wouldn’t be able to close the gap in time to cover the receiver, thus an easy completion.  However, if the slot linebacker bites on the route to Decker, then Matthews has inside release on his cornerback with a deep safety, meaning he will be open in the intermediate area, which is exactly what happens.  From Mariota’s perspective, he is just reading the linebacker in this situation because he is the key to the decision-making process.  It’s a great read and throw by Mariota.  



This is an excellent throw by Mariota, places it perfectly for Walker in this 3rd and 5 situation.  The game is tied at this point, so this a critical conversion and Mariota shows excellent accuracy.  Pre-snap movement indicated that the Browns were in man coverage, and what the offense runs here is a mild form of the pick play.  It’s one of the plays that is catching on in the NFL at a wild rate because it’s extremely hard to defend, and rarely are offensive players called for blocking too early.   Most people remember it from the winning touchdown in last year’s college championship game, or the failed play that resulted in the interception at the goal line by Malcom Butler in the Super Bowl.  The essence of the play is to have offensive players crisscross each other, with the idea being that one offensive player slows down the defender for the other offensive player (essentially a pick in basketball) allowing the secondary receiver to gain separation.  Most of the time, the first receiver (the “blocker”) pretends to run a route and provide reasonable proof indicating the contact was incidental, and therefore not a penalty.  You will see it with pretty much every offense in the NFL at this point, especially on third downs with short distances.  On this play, notice Walker and the slot receiver run the pick which slows down the defender on Walker just enough for him to gain a bit of separation.  Mariota does a great job in making an accurate throw and they convert the first down.  On the other side of the field, a more blatant pick play occurs, which frees up the running back to be wide open, but Mariota is reading the other side of the field.  Mariota’s first read is Walker on this play, and he is open for the pass so the QB can’t be blamed for missing the wide-open running back in this case. 



The benefits of having a mobile QB in this example, on 3rd and 7.  The Browns do a good job of covering the receivers on this play, but Mariota makes them pay with his mobility and converts the first down.  He makes a good read by going towards the open field and then running for the first down.  There isn’t anything amazing to analyze here, this is just great use of his speed. 



Remember the first play of the article?  Same concept here and the same result.  The Browns are in zone defense again, and Mariota is reading the linebacker as well.  If the linebacker stays back, then throw it short to the receiver in the flat.  If the linebacker comes forward, as he does in this play, then make the pass to Rishard Matthews.  It’s a simple read, but a very good throw by Mariota right near the end zone.  The margin for error is relatively small in the red zone, so it’s good to see Mariota make the throw in this situation.  



If you are wondering why the Browns are horrible, this might be a good example for an explanation.  The Browns are playing well off the line of scrimmage in zone, doubled with two over the top safeties, which leaves everything open underneath.  Walker is wide open down the field and Mariota finds him for a big first down.  Elsewhere, you see Eric Decker becoming open underneath as well for an easy pass if Mariota wanted to move on from Walker.  While playing zone defense with two deep safeties has its merits, the Browns seem too passive in the zone defense here to defend any play other than wide 9 routes. 



If the last play showcased why being a passive zone defense hurts the Browns, this is one situation where it almost helps them.  The Titans reach into their bag of tricks and pull out a flea flicker, but it’s well defended.  The Browns are playing well off the line in zone coverage, which is pretty much the worst defense to call a flea flicker against because there is enough room for defenders to recover before the receivers run by them.  Hypothetically, if it’s press man coverage, then the defenders will move forward at the sight of the running back with the ball, allowing the receivers to get behind them and gain separation.  In that situation, the deep pass is open and it’s just a matter of making an accurate throw.  However, in zone defense where they are playing off the line of scrimmage, even when the defenders move forward at the sight of the running back, they have too much room between them and the receivers to recover.  As you can see, the initial play was to be down the middle for the deep pass, but the defenders recovered in time to blow up the play.  Mariota does a great job of not forcing this throw into double coverage, and finds Taylor towards the sideline for a sizable gain.   This is a good example of Mariota showing patience along maturity, and scanning the field when his initial option is taken away.  Far too often we will see young QBs call a trick play, feel obligated to follow through because it works so well in practice, but Mariota shows good restraint here. 



This is a very critical first down for the Titans on 3rd and 13, and a great throw by Mariota, even though it appears off target at first glance.  This is another one read play for Mariota, and his main read on this play is the slot cornerback to the right of the formation.  If the cornerback stays with Taylor as he runs by, then the outside receiver cutting in is going to be open right near the first down marker.  If the slot cornerback peels off towards the outside receiver, and hands-off Taylor to the safety duo, then Mariota has a window for the throw.  Both safeties are playing to the inside of Taylor on this play, and the young receiver does a good job of recognizing coverage and sitting down in the open spot.  Mariota makes a wise decision to throw the ball towards the sideline, because the safety in the middle could make a play on the ball if he throws it towards the inside.  Taylor makes a good adjustment on the throw and makes the catch, for the conversion.  


Once again, I want to reiterate that this isn’t a great game for the Tennessee Titans, especially against the Browns.  The offense struggled to put together drives and put away the game.  The defense hung in there to keep the game close, and eventually win it in over-time.  Thanks for checking out this article, and please browse through the other articles from Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns.  

Mata’utia Mariota (Negative Passing Plays) – Week 7 – (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Positive Running Plays – Week 7 (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Negative Running Plays – Week 7 (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Positive Defensive Plays – Week 7 (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Negative Defensive Plays – Week 7 (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

KW – Kneel for the Win Play – Week 7 (Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns)

Questions for Comments:

  1. Besides Mariota, who is the most indispensable player on offense?  

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