By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota says he only wants to beat the Jaguars to grab a pivotal divisional game against the AFC South leader.
He has no concerns about returning to the field where his season ended last Christmas Eve with a broken right leg . He had to be carted off to the locker room.
Worse, the injury came late in the third quarter with the Titans trailing 25-10 in a game they needed to win to keep their division title hopes alive. With a victory against the Jags and another win the following week against the Houston Texans, the Titans would have clinched the franchise's first AFC South title and playoff berth since 2008.
That's something Mariota will talk about.
"We didn't play very well," Mariota said Wednesday . "Left a bad taste in our mouth. You know that's something I think for a lot of guys lingered throughout the offseason. Obviously, we want to play better. We want to play to our potential."
Mariota has left Jacksonville with a loss in each of his first two seasons, though the last game was easily his worst yet against the Jaguars.
He was pressured from the start and was 8 of 20 for 99 yards and a touchdown. Then Sheldon Day got the Jaguars' second sack late in the third quarter, grabbing Mariota around the ankles and taking the quarterback down. Mariota immediately signaled to the sideline and pounded the ground. Trainers put an air cast around his right leg and ankle and put him on a cart.
"Once he was carted off, I knew he was hurt," Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker said. "Usually Marcus can take a hit, and if he's hurt he'll still get up and play. When he couldn't get up, it hit me. That's our leader, and to see him down and get carted off the field, that hurts."
Mariota needed surgery and couldn't put weight on his right leg for weeks. But the No. 2 pick overall in 2015 and the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner was ready for the start of training camp.
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone got his first win in first game as interim coach against the Titans, and he thinks Mariota looks great coming off a 26-16 loss to Oakland.
"I think that he continues to get better, I think he continues to get better and better with the system," Marrone said. "He's operating at a very high level. He's a very dangerous player because he can beat you with his arm, beat you with his feet, does well on his progressions. There's really not any type of flaw that I see in his game."
That may be why Titans coach Mike Mularkey sees no need to dwell on any negatives of that 38-17 loss in Jacksonville or Mariota's injury in that game. He prefers a history lesson only when something good happened.
"We have guys that already know for a fact that they made a mistake or they didn't play good, they don't need me to reinforce it. He'll be ready to go," Mularkey said of Mariota.
The Titans have too much on the line trying to avoid an 0-2 start in a crucial game after spending the offseason talking about needing to do better inside the AFC South.
"Obviously a goal for us is to win our division, and it's got to start somewhere," Mariota said. "Sunday's a great opportunity for us."
Notes: DT Jurrell Casey (lower back) did not practice, and LB Wesley Woodyard was sent home sick. S Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) did not practice along with CB Tye Smith (broken hand). CB LeShaun Sims (groin) practiced fully after missing the season opener.