NASHVILLE, Tenn. >> Marcus Mariota finally showed he could start a game in style, and now the warmup act is over for the rookie quarterback.
Mariota threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas to cap his only series, and the Tennessee Titans wrapped up the preseason by beating the Minnesota Vikings 24-17 on Thursday night.
The No. 2 overall pick out of Oregon played only four snaps for the Titans (2-2). He proved very efficient as he was 2 of 3 for 74 yards, and he concluded the preseason 21 of 30 for 326 yards with one interception and a 102.9 passer rating.
“It’s really exciting to be part of this offense,” Mariota said. “Guys are continuing to get better, and I feel that we built a solid foundation throughout the preseason. Now it’s time to go.”
Mariota’s next game will be the Titans’ season opener: Sept. 13 at Tampa Bay and the quarterback selected first overall, Jameis Winston.
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said they accomplished what they wanted even with Mariota going up against the Vikings’ backups. They jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter with a TD pass by Zach Mettenberger set up by a fumble forced by Titans cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
“We accomplished what we wanted to do tonight, and that was No. 1, start fast and No. 2, win at home,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s something that’s important to us.”
The Vikings (4-1) lost for the first time in nine preseason games under coach Mike Zimmer. Minnesota went with rookie Taylor Heinicke, giving both quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill the night off among 29 Vikings who did not play. Running back Adrian Peterson dressed and warmed up but finished the preseason without taking a snap.
“Well, I don’t really care about my record, but I don’t like to lose,” Zimmer said.
HIGHLIGHT PLAY: Ryan Succop chased down a bad snap on an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter, and the Titans kicker heaved a pass downfield to defensive lineman Angelo Blackson who made a nice over the shoulder catch for the 2-point conversion. But, long snapper Beau Brinkley was flagged for being an ineligible receiver downfield erasing the points and the play. Succop connected on the extra point with the second chance for a 24-10 lead. Blackson compensated by sacking Heinicke, allowing the Titans to run out the clock.
HEINICKE’S TRYOUT: The rookie out of Old Dominion trying to earn a job as the No. 3 quarterback played the entire game. He threw for 279 yards and his first two TD passes. His first came courtesy of Dominique Williams making a nice one-handed grab in the third quarter.
“He showed he’s got something to him,” Zimmer said.
NO LEVITRE: Titans left guard Andy Levitre, the highest-paid offensive player due $6.5 million this season, did not play. Whisenhunt said he talked with Levitre about their need to see linemen vying for backup spots. Levitre has gone from starting 32 games the past two seasons with Tennessee to possibly being released Saturday with Byron Bell starting the past three games.
“There’s a place for Andy on this team,” Whisenhunt said. “I respect what he’s done, and certainly that’s a decision that we’ve got to talk about.”
REMEMBERING C.O.: Scout C.O. Brocato, who spent 40 years with the Oilers-Titans franchise starting in 1974, was remembered with a pregame video and a moment of silence. Brocato died of cancer Tuesday in Texas at the age of 85.
CALEDONIA IN THE HOUSE: The Minnesota town with a population of 2,000 had not one but two players in this game. Vikings wide receiver Isaac Fruechte, a possible practice squad candidate, and Titans defensive tackle Karl Klug both played for Fruechte’s father in high school. The Titans like Klug so much they signed him to a two-year deal this offseason, and he was a captain for the game.