DENVER -- The Tennessee Titans finally pulled the plug on Marcus Mariota and inserted Ryan Tannehill at quarterback in the third quarter of Sunday's 16-0 loss to the Denver Broncos. The big question now is whether it was just for today or also for the future.
After the game, head coach Mike Vrabel said he would reevaluate the situation with general manager Jon Robinson and make a decision regarding the starting quarterback this week. Mariota feels being pulled is a learning experience and plans to use it as something to grow from.
"Things happen for a reason, and I truly believe that. I can learn from this and grow from this, and I'll become a better player from it," Mariota said after the game. "For me as a competitor, I would love to be out there with my guys. But again, it's going to be completely up to the coaches and what they decide."
The Titans' offense was unable to get anything going in the first half and into the third quarter. That's what led to Mariota being benched. Vrabel was looking to give the offense some kind of spark.
"At that point we were really just trying to find a way to move the football and score some points. I felt like we were in the game and needed to find a way to score. I told [Tannehill] to get warmed up and get ready to go try to score points," Vrabel said.
Switching to Tannehill to steer the ship still didn't give the Titans enough of a jolt in a scoreless performance, but they made their only two trips to the red zone after he took over.
Mariota struggled against a decimated Broncos secondary. He finished the day having completed 7 of 15 pass attempts for 63 yards. He also threw two interceptions on the day. There were times when Mariota escaped a clean pocket before he needed to, but his receivers weren't getting open. His 38.9% completion percentage Sunday was the second lowest of his career, better only than a 30% performance in a Week 15 loss to the Broncos in 2016.
When asked if it's his team and if he should be the starter going forward, Mariota's response was, "Absolutely. No matter what, I am a team player. If they call my number, I will be ready to go and make the most of my opportunity."
Mariota completed just 1 of 7 pass attempts and threw two interceptions on throws that traveled more than 10 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. He entered Sunday completing 62.8 percent of those throws with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Tannehill, a 2012 first-round pick who was the Miami Dolphins' starter for seven seasons before being released this offseason, completed a quick pass to Corey Davis on an out-breaking route for his first completion as a Titan. He hit A.J. Brown on a quick slant for a 42-yard gain, but it was called back because of offensive pass interference on Brown. Tannehill finished the day 13 of 16 for 144 yards but also threw an interception.
Tannehill said he has no idea what his role will be moving forward and that Vrabel hasn't told him anything.
Whichever quarterback is under center needs to find a way to get the ball in the end zone, because Tennessee's defense is giving the team a chance to win games. Instead of pointing fingers after the offense only scored a total of one touchdown in two games, the defense is taking it upon itself to elevate its game.
"We are at that point now where we can't let them score period," said safety Kenny Vaccaro. "If we don't score, the game has to at least be a tie. Our job is to make them score less than what we score. If it's zero then we have to give up zero. That's what I am at. We have to be better. If we have to give up zero points for the rest of the year, then that's what we have to do. That's the standard. Sixteen points is too much. We have to stop giving up touchdowns. We have to be like the '85 Bears, the 2000 Ravens. That's the standard. Why not? It is what it is."