Desperately needing a big play in a wild-card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota made it happen all by himself. Literally. He made some NFL history in the process.
On a third-and-goal, Mariota scrambled to his left. He looked like he wanted to make a run for the end zone, then realized he wasn’t going to make it. So he pulled up, just before he crossed the line of scrimmage, and threw it to the end zone. The ball was batted in the air by the Chiefs’ Darrelle Revis and right back to Mariota, who caught it and dove into the end zone for a touchdown. Yes, it goes into the record books as Mariota throwing a touchdown to Mariota.
At least Mariota didn’t have to argue with a receiver over who got to keep the ball from his first career touchdown pass. And just think of the fantasy points for that play.
It’s rare but not impossible for a quarterback to complete a pass to himself. Brett Favre’s first NFL completion was on a similar play, where a pass was tipped up and he caught it. It is rare to make it a touchdown pass. ESPN’s broadcast, citing Elias Sports Bureau, said it’s only the second time in NFL history a quarterback has thrown a touchdown to himself. The other time was Brad Johnson for the Vikings in 1997. In an odd quirk Mariota also became the first player since at least 1950 to have a passing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in the same playoff game, per Pro Football Reference.
That led to a funny scene on ESPN, with color commentator Jon Gruden showing during the broadcast that Johnson (his quarterback when he was coach of the Buccaneers) texted him a highlight of the play.
The Titans trailed 21-3 at that point, and Mariota’s crazy play got them back in the game. It was their first true spark of the day. It’s nothing the Titans would draw up in meeting rooms, but it looked pretty cool.