Mariota playing 3rd Heisman winner this season in Cam Newton

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Another week, another Heisman Trophy matchup for Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. This time, he squares off against Cam Newton and the undefeated Carolina Panthers.

This will be Mariota's third Heisman pairing in the rookie's first seven NFL games after playing Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel.

''Physically, he's very dominant,'' Mariota said of Newton on Wednesday. ''He's really been able to win both from the pocket and outside as well. He's tough to bring down, and really he's just playing at a high level now.''

Both Mariota and Newton are playing well. Each was named the offensive player of his respective conference Wednesday. Newton earned NFC honors for the fourth time in his career after helping the Panthers (8-0) beat Green Bay. Mariota was named the AFC player of the week after leading the Titans (2-6) to each of their two wins.

''I know he's a great football player,'' Newton said of Mariota. ''He went to Oregon and selected highly in the draft. I know he has a lot of talent, but that is pretty much all I know.''

Newton's coach sees lots of similarities between the quarterbacks. Both are big, strong, athletic and good at making decisions.

''At this point in his career, (Mariota) really does resemble Cam in a lot of ways in terms of the way he's playing in his rookie year,'' Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

Mariota already has put himself in some special company.

He threw for a career-best 371 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in last week's 34-28 overtime win over New Orleans. That was the second time this season he had thrown four touchdown passes without getting picked off. New England's Tom Brady of New England is the only other quarterback to do that in two games this season.

The rest of the NFL's quarterbacks have managed only four such games all season, according to STATS. Those quarterbacks are Oakland's Derek Carr, Eli Manning of the Giants, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Tannehill of Miami.

Mariota first was named AFC offensive player of the week after the season-opening win at Tampa Bay. He is just the second rookie to win player of the week twice, joining Robert Griffin III who won the NFC award twice in 2012 on his way to earning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year that season.

This latest performance came with Mariota recovering from a sprained MCL in his left knee and after the Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt as coach. Mariota leads all NFL rookies with 13 TDs and a 101.5 passer rating that puts him ninth across the league.

Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly sees Mariota's athleticism is the rookie's biggest attribute so far.

''You always have to worry about him keeping it, you always have to worry about him staying inside the pocket,'' Kuechly said. ''That just makes him more dangerous. He can make all the throws and you add that little ability to run the ball, it just makes him a little bit more difficult to prepare for.''

Titans right guard Chance Warmack has blocked for both Newton and Mariota, though he hasn't protected Newton since they both were in high school in Georgia. Warmack said it's hard to believe that Mariota is just a rookie.

''He just does some miraculous things, carries himself really well and overall he's a nice person as well,'' Warmack said. ''That's just icing on the cake. Just being around guys like that definitely improves your game and helps you get better and do better.''

Newton has earned the nickname of Superman for his touchdown celebrations. The Titans rookie is satisfied with simply being called by his first name.

''That's who I am, and that's the name my parents gave me,'' Mariota said.

Notes: Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said CB Jason McCourty was getting a second opinion on his injured groin Wednesday. McCourty missed practice along with RB Dexter McCluster (ankle) and WR Kendall Wright (left knee). CB Perrish Cox (hamstring) and CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring) were limited.


AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed to this report.



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