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Sep 13, 2015 9:51 PM

Mariota throws 4 TDs, outplays Winston, Titans rout Bucs

The Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Marcus Mariota looked right at home standing on the sideline in the fourth quarter, watching his teammates close out a lopsided victory.

The rookie quarterback made it look as easy as he did in college Sunday, throwing four touchdown passes and outplaying No. 1 overall draft pick Jameis Winston in their NFL debuts to lead the Tennessee Titans to a 42-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The highly anticipated season opener featuring the first two players selected in the draft was one-sided from the start, not unlike many of Mariota's dazzling performances at Oregon, where he routinely built big early leads.

"Starting fast, setting the tempo, going out there and having success early, just gave confidence to everybody and really helped us all the way through the game," Mariota said after the Titans ended a 10-game losing streak.

The second overall pick, however, cautioned against reading too much into dominating the Bucs, who like the Titans went 2-14 last season.

"It means we're 1-0. For me, it's taking it one day at a time and just executing to the best of my abilities," the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner said. "It's a good start for us, but it's just the first game. We've got to continue to get better and not focus on stats."

Mariota threw for 209 yards without an interception to join Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton as the only players to throw for four or more TD passes in their first NFL game.

Tarkenton did it for Minnesota against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 17, 1961. Mariota became the first to do it in the opening half.

Winston, the No. 1 overall pick and 2013 Heisman winner, did something rare, too, becoming the first quarterback since Brett Favre in 1991 to have his first NFL pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Mariota, meanwhile, teamed with Kendall Wright on a 52-yard TD play less than two minutes into the game and also had TD throws of 12 yards to Bishop Sankey, 4 yards to Harry Douglass and 1-yard to Delanie Walker to build a 35-7 halftime lead.

The Titans, who didn't score more than 28 in any game while going 2-14 last season, scored on four of five possessions in the opening half. Mariota led another TD drive to make it 42-7 midway through the third quarter.

"They played the best they can possibly play and we played the worst we can possibly play," Winston said, vowing to bounce back. "We got our worst game out of the way. We can't look back."

Winston threw TD passes of 5 and 41 yards to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but never really established a rhythm throwing the ball. The Bucs have lost 10 straight home games, nine of them under second-year coach Lovie Smith.

"Their quarterback played better than ours today. Their football team played better today. Their coach did a better job coaching their football team than I did today," Smith said, adding "but it's one game" and not a reflection on how good Winston will become as a pro.

"We have the guy," Smith said, "that's perfect for our football team."

Notes: Mariota and Winston met once in college, with Oregon trouncing Florida State 59-20 in last season's national playoff semifinals. It was the only loss Winston suffered in 27 college starts. ... Coty Sensabaugh, starting in place of injured Titans cornerback Jason McCourty, picked off a sideline throw and ran 26 yards for a TD on Winston's first pass of the game. ... Mariota finished 13 of 16 with no interceptions. He was sacked twice before being replaced by Zach Mettenberger with 14:49 remaining in the game. ... Winston was 16 of 33 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Titans sacked him four times.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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