By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota’s right hand sure seems pretty healthy, and the Tennessee quarterback keeps proving he knows how to find ways to win when it matters most.
Mariota threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a team-high 46 yards and another score Sunday in leading the Titans to a 26-23 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished off the win by lofting a 10-yard TD pass to Corey Davis with 5 seconds left in overtime.
“You’re like a kid running around in your backyard counting down the seconds,” Mariota said. “This is why we play the game. To have an opportunity to win it and have the ball in your hand.”
Mariota started his first game since hurting his elbow in the season opener,causing a nerve issue affecting the quarterback’s hand strength and leading to some numbness and tingling in a couple fingers. Mariota wore a partial glove covering his ring and pinkie fingers on his right hand, and he led his NFL-best sixth game-winning drive since the start of the 2017 season — seventh if counting his playoff victory in January.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel called Mariota’s connection with Davis, who had 161 yards receiving along with his first TD catch in the regular season, phenomenal. Vrabel also liked how Mariota responded to an interception late in the first half.
“He was great when it mattered the most,” Vrabel said.
Tennessee (3-1) now is off to its best start since 2013.
The Eagles (2-2) blew leads of 17-3 in the third quarter and 23-20 in overtime to snap a two-game winning streak.
“We’ve just got to regroup,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Obviously, we’re a quarter of the way through, and we’re 2-2. Not quite where we want to be. You know we’ve got a long way to go yet. We just have to keep staying together, and there’s a lot of things we have to clean up. I think we’re right there. We just have to clean up some things and finish some drives as an offense.”
Some things to know about the Titans and Eagles:
Vrabel took a timeout with the Titans facing their third fourth down in overtime and kicker Ryan Succop lining up for a 50-yard field goal and a tie. Then the first-year head coach sent the offense back on the field, and Mariota hit Dion Lewis with a 17-yard pass on fourth-and-2 to keep the drive alive.
“That’s our coach,” Titans cornerback Logan Ryan said of Vrabel. “He’s a great coach. He was born to be a coach. There’s no point in playing for a tie. It doesn’t help you. I love that. We were as surprised as everybody else, but I love that decision making. What’s the point of being 2-1-1?”
Philadelphia has some things to work on after the defending Super Bowl champs struggled with dropped passes, penalties (eight for 77) and lost one of three fumbles. The Eagles outgained Tennessee 432-397 but couldn’t score a touchdown in the final seconds of regulation or their lone drive in overtime. They settled for field goals by Jake Elliott each time.
Tennessee lost leading tackler, linebacker Wesley Woodyard, to a shoulder injury on the Eagles’ second offensive play of the game. Starting safety Kenny Vaccaro hurt his right arm in the first half and watched the second half wearing a sling. The Titans came up with four sacks and held the Eagles to three field goals.
Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery made his season debut , and he sure looked healthy in his return. He caught the first pass thrown to him, and finished catching eight of nine passes thrown his way for 105 yards. He also scored his first TD on a 16-yard catch in the third quarter for a 17-3 lead.
HEY, THAT’S OUR CELEBRATION
When Tajae Sharpe caught an 11-yard TD to put the Titans up 20-17 with 5:01 left, Tennessee took a page out of the Eagles’ book by mimicking a TD celebration Philadelphia used three times last season. With teammates lined up as pins, Sharpe bowled the football at them, knocking them down.
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