The Titans could not inch closer to a playoff spot after a Week 16 blowout loss in Jacksonville, and the team received rough news postgame. Marcus Mariota fractured his right fibula, said Mike Mularkey before adding, “Obviously, he is out.”
Mariota will miss the rest of the season, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This will make Matt Cassel the Titans’ starter in what could be a Week 17 game for a playoff spot. Cassel came in for Mariota after the seminal second-half sequence that featured the second-year starter carted off the field.
Tennessee rode into playoff contention down the stretch behind a strong running game, an improved defense and a developing Mariota, who won five more games as a starter than he did as a rookie. The 2014 Heisman Trophy recipient finishes his season with 26 touchdown passes compared to just nine interceptions. Mariota also rushed for a career-high 346 yards and scored two touchdowns.
A Sheldon Day sack resulted in the cart-off sequence, and it will signal an offseason for the Titans’ cornerstone player geared around rehab. Mariota finished last season on IR, missing Tennessee’s final three games. However, those contests came for a team that ultimately went 3-13 and secured the No. 1 pick.
Tennessee’s Week 17 game against Houston could be for the division title, but after this loss, that will only come if the Texans lose to the Bengals tonight. The Colts finishing in a three-way tie would also doom the Titans, who are 1-4 in AFC South play.
Cassel looks set to make a start for a fifth NFL team in the past four years and sixth overall. He went 1-6 as a Cowboys starter last season. The 34-year-old passer signed a one-year deal in March to back up Mariota.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.