Posted at 11:02 AM, Sep 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-20 11:02:09-04

Marcus Mariota set the bar high for himself in his first pro start. His NFL debut was spectacular, statistically sublime.

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Being perfect twice in a row might be asking too much of Tennessee's rookie quarterback.

Or, maybe it isn't.

The second overall pick in this year's draft, Mariota recorded a pristine 158.3 passer's rating last week in a 42-14 win over Tampa Bay, one of the league's worst teams. He threw four touchdown passes in the first half, completed 13 of 16 passes -- after two incompletions to start -- and displayed poise and polish well beyond his 21 years.

His hyped matchup with No. 1 pick Jameis Winston dissolved into a one-sided affair.

"If you just woke up from a couple years of sleep, didn't know anything and watched the game with the sound off, you wouldn't know that he was a rookie," said Browns coach Mike Pettine, whose defense will try to shut down the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner on Sunday. "He handled himself very well. But it's not surprising, knowing what we know about the kid and how dedicated he is to the sport and how much he put into it and prepared."

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For the second time in two weeks, Mariota will square off with a Heisman winner as Johnny Manziel will start for the Browns. Manziel is getting the nod to make his third career start in place of Josh McCown, who sustained a concussion last week on the team's opening drive.

While Manziel looked frazzled in his first two starts a year ago, Mariota was superb.

It's too early to start fitting Mariota for a gold Hall of Famer's jacket, but he announced his arrival with a performance only matched by a handful of elite quarterbacks. In typical style, he handled it with humility, one of the personality traits that drew the Titans to him.

It certainly intensified the spotlight on Mariota, but Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt is confident it won't change his young star.

"I don't think it's a big deal to him," he said.

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This will be the second straight road game for the Titans (1-0), who haven't opened the season with two straight road wins since 1981, when they were in Houston.

For the Browns, Sunday's home opener is vital. They played poorly -- 12 penalties, five turnovers -- in a 31-10 loss last week against the Jets, and some grumbling Cleveland fans are already clamoring for change.

Here are some other things to keep an eye on when the teams meet at FirstEnergy Stadium:

MANZIEL VS. MARIOTA:  Manziel showed some progress in his relief appearance against the Jets compared to where he was as a rookie, but his three turnovers were costly. Pettine said he's not concerned about his young QB getting caught up in this week's Mariota hype.

"He's been very, very focused, very dialed in," Pettine said. "Their defense presents a lot of problems, and I think we'll have more than enough to worry about then to think of looking up and trying to compare stats. The only thing he's going to worry about is the scoreboard."

BACK'S BACK: The Browns traded running back Terrance West, their leading rusher last season, to Tennessee on Sept. 6 knowing they hosted the Titans in their home opener. But injuries to a couple of Titans running backs pushed West onto the field pretty quickly. West ran 13 times for 41 yards in the opener. Asked about returning to Cleveland, West said it will be special and he still talks to several Browns.

"Cleveland's a great organization and I got nothing but respect for them," he said. "It's going to be fun."

RUNNING NOWHERE: The Browns' rushing attack was futile last week as Cleveland gained 104 yards -- 58 on scrambles by Manziel and McCown. Cleveland's offensive line didn't open holes, and when it did create a space, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson didn't do much with them.

"I missed some (holes)," said Crowell, who picked up 20 yards on 12 carries. "People missed some blocks. I missed a couple blocks myself. But all of us just got to go out there and get better as a whole."

UNDER PRESSURE: The Titans had four sacks and two interceptions in their opener, the first game with Dick LeBeau calling the defense. Following that up could be much tougher if Manziel, who has great mobility, plays. Linebacker Brian Orakpo said being controlled on their rushes is key to keeping Manziel in the pocket. "When he gets out of the pocket, everybody has to plaster their coverage and we just have to get him," he said.

DEFENSIVE DOLDDRUMS: Conversely, Cleveland's defense struggled last week as the Browns' inability to stop the run -- they were ranked last in 2014 in rushing defense -- was again a problem. New York had 154 yards rushing, not the start the Browns envisioned after signing free agent Randy Starks and drafting massive nose tackle Danny Shelton.

"I'm confident that we learn from our mistakes," coordinator Jim O'Neil said. "We've got it cleaned it up off the tape. We've emphasized it this week in practice. We'll be better in Week 2."


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