The New York football Giants didn’t make it easy on former Havre Blue Pony and Tennessee Titans’ wide receiver Marc Mariani on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn’t that Mariani, the Titans’ return man, was perplexed by the Giants’ special teams or had trouble with finding holes on his returns. It was because the Giants simply struggled so much on Sunday in Tennessee’s 29-10 win at the new Meadowlands Stadium, they hardly kicked off and didn’t punt at all, leaving Mariani with few opportunities.
But when his number was called, Mariani made the Giants pay. He set Tennessee up with good field position on his only kickoff in the first half, and the Titans scored on the drive. Then Mariani really got going when he returned the opening kickoff of the second half 45 yards to almost the 50 yard-line. The return was his longest of his young NFL career.
However, Mariani only got one more chance, but again, he found a hole and had another 37-yard return to again set the Titans up with great field position on a day when Tennessee overwhelmed New York.
Mariani averaged 24 yards per return and finished the day with three returns for 74 yards. The return at the start of the second half was vintage Mariani, following his blockers until a hole opened up, and then he burst through it, and Giants’ kicker Lawrence Tynes had to make a big play to prevent an even longer gain.
But as good a day as Mariani had, the Titans’ defense had a big day too and that kept Mariani from adding to both his kickoff return stats, as the Giants scored just three times, as well as his punt return stats. In a weird twist, because of two Eli Manning interceptions, a fumble, a Tennessee safety and New York turning it over on downs three different times, the Giants didn’t punt once the entire game, leaving Mariani on the sidelines in that aspect.
But as usual, the rookie from Montana, as he’s being referred to on national telecasts each week, made his presence felt in what is now the NFL’s biggest stadium. His kick returns were electric and his special team’s units, kickoff cover and punt cover, played well all day long, things that had Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher more than pleased with after the game.
And perhaps most important, Mariani’s Titans got a big win on the road, something they were focused on after last week’s difficult loss to Pittsburgh. Now Mariani and the Titans (2-1) return to Nashville for a date with the Denver Broncos on Sunday.