Down 24-7 in the second quarter, Mariota ran for a 2-yard touchdown to slice Houston's lead to 24-14. Mariota faked the handoff, saw linebacker Whitney Mercilus streaking toward him, and immediately outran him to the pylon.
During that play, however, Mariota injured his hamstring and went into halftime in pain. When Tennessee came out of the tunnel to commence the second half, Mariota stood on the sidelines, and backup quarterback Matt Cassel started for the rest of the game.
After the game, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey told Wyatt that Mariota would undergo an MRI on Monday. According to Murlarkey, Mariota wanted to see if he could play with the injured hamstring.
“He came out, warmed up and I said to him: ‘I’d like to be smart about it. There’s a lot of football still to go. We have 12 games to go, so let’s be smart about it. I’ll know more about the extent of it (later)," Murlarkey said.
Mariota finished the game with 96 passing yards and two interceptions. He also ran the ball four times for 39 yards and two scores. If Mariota isn’t able to play this week, the Titans will have to rely on their defense and rushing attack to win games.
What does this mean for the Titans?
Mularkey said the team will have a plan in place for both Mariota and Matt Cassel, in case Mariota isn’t able to play. Cassel, Tennessee’s 35-year-old backup quarterback, was just 4 for 10 for 21 yards and two interceptions, including a pick-six, against the Texans.
The Titans might be a little concerned about Mariota missing time with another injury. A knee injury cost him four games as a rookie, and he then suffered a fractured fibula late last season and underwent surgery. This hamstring injury could have been much worse, but that’s still three leg injuries for the quarterback in three years.
Tennessee is 2-2, currently in a three-way tie atop the AFC South. But the team’s chances of winning take a serious hit without Mariota under center. The good news for the Titans is that they don’t face a team with a winning record until November. And it’s possible that Mariota may not even miss any time.