NASHVILLE, Tenn. >> Marcus Mariota is off to such a good start for the Tennessee Titans that his passer rating improved even on an off day thanks to a statistical correction.
On Sunday, the rookie quarterback gets his turn at a Buffalo defense that gave up a franchise-worst 466 yards passing to Tom Brady and was picked apart by Eli Manning for three touchdowns already this season.
“I don’t think the kid’s going to have his way against us,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
The Patriots and Giants certainly have shown how to attack the Bills with a quick passing game. Mariota may be a rookie, but he proved winning the Heisman Trophy at Oregon that he can run a fast-paced, uptempo attack and move the chains if coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to speed up the Titans. Of his 96 passes, 43 have gone for first downs, tops in the NFL.
Mariota also threw for a career-high 367 yards in a 35-33 loss to Indianapolis on Sept. 27. Only six quarterbacks have posted a better passer rating than Mariota’s 110.3 in their first three starts, and now the rookie who lost only five games in college as a starter is coming off a bye. Tennessee is trying to snap a two-game skid.
“Marcus has played well,” Whisenhunt said. “There’s things that young players, mistakes that all of our guys are making … But the way he’s been playing, the poise he has shown, plays that he’s made, it’s been very good. He’s done a nice job.”
Cleveland sacked Mariota seven times in Week 2, and the Titans are expecting more pressure from the Bills (2-2) even though Buffalo has only seven sacks so far. The Bills, with their duo of $100 million men in Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus up front, sacked Manning only once in a 24-10 loss to the Giants last week.
Bills linebacker Preston Brown said they want to surprise and hit a young quarterback as much as possible.
“He seems like a composed young man, so we’ll try to get at him,” Brown said.
Here are some things to know about the Bills and Titans:
BANGED-UP BILLS: Running back LeSean McCoy likely will miss his second straight game with an injured hamstring, and Karlos Williams is waiting to be cleared from a concussion. Buffalo could start third-stringer Boobie Dixon, with his backup the newly signed Dan Herron. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins also could miss a second straight game recovering from an injured calf.
OFFENSIVE TITANS: With Mariota at quarterback and Dick LeBeau running the defense, the Titans are showing big improvement from last season. The Titans are among only four teams ranked in the Top 10 in both total offense and defense. The Titans rank ninth averaging 375.7 yards offensively, and sixth allowing 308.3 yards per game. Tennessee also hold the ball an average of 33 minutes, 54 seconds per game, third best in the NFL.
HEALTHY TITANS: While the Bills listed 12 players on their injury report this week, the Titans took advantage of a rare early bye to heal. Cornerback Jason McCourty will make his season debut after needing groin surgery Aug. 24, and Tennessee’s biggest question mark is whether right guard Chance Warmack misses a third straight game with a sprained right knee.
DROP AND GIVE ME 10: With Buffalo leading the NFL with the most penalties (47) and yards penalized (428), Ryan is trying a new approach to clean up the dead ball penalties. Any person who commits a penalty in practice must stand and watch while everyone else stops and does 10 pushups. Bills wide receiver Percy Harvin said Ryan used this with the Jets.
WELCOME REX: Ryan is 2-2 against the Titans himself, and the Bills can use some of his mojo against Tennessee. The Titans have won five straight in this series, with Buffalo’s last win in 2000. The Bills haven’t been to the playoffs since January 2000, when they lost a wild-card game best known as the Music City Miracle.