How Marcus Mariota’s Early Injury Forced Titans To Change Strategy Vs. Patriots

The New England Patriots’ pass rush was historically good Saturday night. But it may have been dealing with an easier target than expected.

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey revealed that quarterback Marcus Mariota sprained his quad in the first quarter of the Patriots’ 35-14 AFC Divisional Round win at Gillette Stadium.

Mariota suffered the injury while running, according to Mularkey, but remained in the game and didn’t miss a snap. Mularkey admitted Mariota’s injury slowed down the Titans quarterback and forced his club to make adjustments on offense.

“It had an impact, obviously,” the Titans coach said after the game. “Had to get out of some of scheme that we had with him. With our zone scheme.”

Mularkey famously billed Tennessee’s offense as “exotic smashmouth” back in 2016, placing an emphasis on solid line play, hard-nosed running backs and Mariota’s mobility to keep defenses off-balance. But the Patriots stifled Derrick Henry on Saturday night, holding the Titans running back to just 28 yards on 12 carries.

And after Mariota’s quad injury hampered his running ability, New England’s defense went to town, recording seven of its franchise playoff record eight sacks in the second half.

Mariota, who rushed four times for 37 yards while adding 254 yards through the air and two touchdown passes, downplayed the injury after the game.

“Everybody played with something,” the QB told reporters. ” … You don’t play to come and lose in the divisional playoff. You play to go win the whole thing and we just didn’t execute and didn’t make plays, they did and they’re moving on.”

This isn’t the first time Mariota has been slowed by a leg injury, as the 24-year-old dealt with a hamstring ailment that forced him to miss one game this season and affected his play in several others.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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