Mariota returns from injury, leads Titans to clutch road win over Saints in OT

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tennessee rookie Marcus Mariota came back from his recent injury to derail Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

Mariota passed for 371 yards and four touchdowns, including a 5-yard scoring pass to Anthony Fasano in overtime, and Tennessee snapped a six-game skid with a 34-28 victory over New Orleans on Sunday.

The Saints (4-5), who had won three in a row, led 21-10 but could not put away the Titans (2-6), who turned in a feisty performance in their first game since coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired and replaced by Mike Mularkey.

Sunday also marked Mariota’s return from a knee sprain that sidelined him for two games. He completed 28 of 39 passes, at times converting quick, decisive throws under pressure.

Brees was 28 of 39 for 389 yards and three touchdowns. He also scored on a short keeper.

However, he also was intercepted on a third-quarter pass to the end zone. The throw was intended for Mark Ingram, but instead found Tennessee’s B.W. Webb, who had been moved up from the practice squad only a day earlier because of injuries to defensive backs Jason McCourty (groin) and Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring).

Both teams missed go-ahead field goal attempts in the last two minutes of regulation. First, Tennesee’s Ryan Succop hit the cross bar on a 55-yard try that would have been a career long. Then in the final minute, Kai Forbath, who a week earlier had kicked a game-winning field goal, had his 46-yard attempt partially blocked by Coty Sensabaugh.

Tennessee had to overcome a significant lack of discipline to win. One roughing-the-passer flag wiped out an interception in the first half, while two others gave the Saints first-and-goal on a pair of touchdown drives. Tennessee also was called for unsportsmanlike conduct several times for arguing with officials.

The Saints took a 28-20 lead on Brees’ short pass to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui shortly after Brian Orakpo was called for a double unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing a flag thrown against teammate David Bass for a high hit on a sack.

But the Titans responded with Mariota’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hunter, followed by a 2-point conversion to Delanie Walker, who also caught a pair of touchdown passes and finished with seven receptions for 95 yards.

Brees completed eight of his first 10 passes for 150 yards and touchdowns of 10 yards to Josh Hill and 38 yards to Brandin Cooks, but the Saints were plagued by a number of mistakes.

The Titans did not gain a first down on their first two possessions and gained only 29 yards on their first 10 plays, but Marcus Murphy’s fumble on a Saints punt return set up Tennessee’s first points on Succop’s 51-yard field goal.

Later, the Saints essentially gifted Tennessee a touchdown when Mariota threw a ball up for grabs and defensive backs Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis fought over what initially looked like a certain interception. The ball popped into the arms of Walker, who ran free for a 61-yard touchdown that cut New Orleans’ lead to 14-10.

The Titans will play a home game next Sunday against the undefeated Carolina Panthers that will be broadcast on KHON/Fox.

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