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Titans hoping QB Marcus Mariota healthy enough to play Colts

By: TERESA M. WALKER, Associated Press
October 15, 2017 Updated: October 15, 2017 at 1:40 pm
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photo - FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2017, file photo, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota throws during NFL football practice in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans are hoping Mariota’s hamstring continues improving enough for him to play Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2017, file photo, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota throws during NFL football practice in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans are hoping Mariota’s hamstring continues improving enough for him to play Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Only Marcus Mariota's left hamstring can save the Titans from adding yet another backup's name to the list of Tennessee quarterbacks trying their hand against the Indianapolis Colts.

Mariota is questionable for Monday night's game with their AFC South rivals, and how much he can move around will determine whether or not Matt Cassel starts a second straight game for Tennessee.

If there's any doubt of Mariota's health, Titans coach Mike Mularkey plans to err on the side of keeping Mariota available for the final 10 games of the season.

"That's the biggest concern because of all the football that's left," Mularkey said. "We want to be smart. I think we've been very good with our guys in that regard, especially in this position and this guy, with Marcus, cannot expose him to something, that risk."

The Hawaii native, certainly wants to start his first Monday night game in the NFL and to help the Titans end an 11-game skid against their AFC South rivals.

"Obviously, you hear about it, but all we can do is control what we do in practice every single day, focus on getting better, focus on how we can build that chemistry to be a successful team," Mariota said of the skid. "When Monday rolls around, you just go out there and compete and hopefully get a win."

Not only have the Titans (2-3) lost 11 straight to Indianapolis, they've also lost two straight this season and are coming off a 16-10 loss in Miami.

Two of Cassel's three turnovers have been returned for touchdowns, and he has been sacked eight times compared to only two for the more mobile Mariota.

If Cassel starts, he'll join a lengthy list of Tennessee quarterbacks to play in this series since Oct. 30, 2011, when the Titans last beat Indianapolis and Curtis Painter during Peyton Manning's final season with the Colts.

Dan Orlovsky started the current streak on Dec. 18, 2011, with the Colts' first victory in a season that allowed them the right to draft Andrew Luck in 2012.

That loss also kept Tennessee out of the playoffs on a tiebreaker.

Since then, Luck has started nine of Indianapolis' 10 wins beating the likes of Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger, Alex Tanney and now Mariota in three of the past four games. Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley even beat the Titans filling in for Luck at the end of the 2015 season.

Luck will miss his sixth straight game this season with Jacoby Brissett as his replacement, leading the Colts (2-3) to victories over winless teams in Cleveland and San Francisco.

The Colts needed overtime to beat the 49ers 26-23 last week .

"I'm used to seeing Luck," Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan said. "That's who I'm used to seeing, and he's been a thorn in our side since he's gotten into the league.

"But (Brissett), he's a guy who's won two games for them. He's able to make plays out of the pocket, that has a very strong arm. He's a very capable quarterback and somebody that we've got to account for him. We know he can play."

Brissett has started the past four games since the Colts traded for him Sept. 2 . He has thrown for 997 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions.

He's also been sacked 14 times, and the Colts' offensive line took another hit Saturday with right guard Jack Mewhort being placed on injured reserve.

Pagano said it's been no easy task for any team.

"With those circumstances, he's been an all-star. He's a tireless worker, he's very smart, he's got great leadership qualities, he's built chemistry with the locker room and the players around him.

"He's a talented guy, he's big and he's strong and he's got arm talent, can make all the throws. We've been able to add a little bit with each week."

This time, the Titans are hoping they have the perfect — and healthy — quarterback to finally beat the Colts.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL .

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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