With all due respect to Blaine Gabbert, the backup quarterback just isn’t Mariota. And in a game against a division rival, you can’t just sit back and hope for the best.
Which might explain why the Titans went deep into the playbook for a trick punt early in the first quarter. With fourth-and-6 from the Tennessee 34-yard line, Titans safety Kevin Byard lobbed a perfect pass to rookie defensive back Dane Cruikshank out of the punt formation.
Sure, the Texans got caught sleeping a bit — Cruikshank was completely uncovered at the line — but check out the rookie’s speed here once Houston figures out what’s happening.
The Arizona product ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 at the scouting combine before the Titans took him in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft (152 overall), and he made those 66 yards on the touchdown look like a light jog on the way to the end zone.
But the fake punt isn’t the only bit of trickery Tennessee has trotted out on Sunday. Derrick Henry has also thrown an 8-yard pass. Meanwhile, Mariota has yet to make any sort of presence felt in the game.
Instead, Gabbert tossed an 18-yard touchdown to Taywan Taylor and the Titans ended the first quarter with a 14-0 lead.
Not bad for a team missing it’s Pro Bowl caliber quarterback.
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