NFL Wire News

Jaguars-Titans: What we learned

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — They called it the futility game. Two teams tied with the worst record in the NFL.

On this night, the Jacksonville Jaguars were just a shade better than Tennessee, using a 62-yard fourth-quarter run by Jordan Todman to open up an 11-point lead, en route to a 21-13 win over the visiting Titans at EverBank.

While Jacksonville won the game, Tennessee could become the big winner. If the Titans lose their final game of the season at Indianapolis on Dec. 28, the Titans would be in line for the No. 1 overall draft choice in next year’s college draft.

While Tennessee’s losing streak increased to nine consecutive games, the Jaguars won for the second time in their last four games. It was a win that coach Gus Bradley especially liked because of the short week of preparation.

“It makes it tough when you have a short week, especially how physical the game was last week,” Bradley said. “We had a lot of guys that we were testing at 5:00 tonight to see if they could go. Our whole objective this whole week was it’s going to be a short week but to play fast tonight, and everything we had that mindset with our team.”

Tennessee turned the ball over on downs early in the fourth quarter when a fourth-down pass to wide receiver Kris Durham came up a yard short of a first down at the Jaguars’ 38-yard line.

On the first play following the change of possession, Todman broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, put a move on safety Michael Griffin, stiff-armed strong safety George Wilson and sprinted to the end zone. He followed with a leap into the arms of Jacksonville fans.

“I heard the call (for him to carry the ball), and it was my first carry of the day so I was excited,” Todman said. “I saw there was an opportunity to cut it back and make a guy miss and then it was off to the races. It was a great feeling. Everything happened to fall in place.

Tennessee cut three points off the deficit on another Ryan Succop field goal, this one from 23 yards out with just over six minutes left in the game.

The Titans got the ball one final time with just under a minute to play. They marched down to the Jaguars’ 36-yard line, but quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was sacked by Sen’Derrick Marks on the last play of the game to give the Jaguars their third win of the year.

Tennessee took the game’s opening possession and marched 84 yards in 12 plays. Whitehurst was perfect in the drive, connecting on all six pass attempts for 71 yards. The score came on an 8-yard toss to Jacksonville native and running back Leon Washington.

It was the first Titans score on an opening drive in their last 18 games. Jacksonville came into the game as one of just two teams that had not allowed a touchdown on its opponents opening drive.

Tennessee increased its lead to 10-0 late in the second quarter when Succop converted on a 50-yard field-goal attempt with 3:46 remaining in the half.

The Jaguars finally got their offense going following Succop’s field goal. Quarterback Blake Bortles directed an 11-play, 80-yard scoring march, connecting with Marcedes Lewis from 4 yards out for the score. Bortles came up with the key play of the game, gaining nine yards on a third-and-9 to give the Jaguars a first down at the 13. Following an incomplete pass, Bortles connected with Lewis for the score, shaving the Titans halftime lead to 10-7.

What the Jaguars said:

“We’ve been in every game it seems like. They were a little rough, but we’re close and I think the tenacity in this team, the fight we play with, I think everybody recognizes that across the league. Our record isn’t showing it, but we’re close and it was nice to come in tonight, national TV, Thursday night game, last home game for our fans, and to get a win.” — Running back Toby Gerhart.

What the Titans said:

“It was a disappointing loss for us. There are a few things you worry about on a short week, especially on the road with how you start and it couldn’t have started much better for us. Defensively we did a nice job on them until the last drive of the first half.” — Coach Ken Whisenhunt.

What we learned about the Jaguars:

1. The Jaguars don’t need gaudy, big numbers from quarterback Blake Bortles to win. Bortles had his lowest passing output of the season with 115 yards on 13-of-26 passing. But with a running game that included a committee of three players (including Bortles) all of whom gained at least 50 yards, the Jaguars totaled 177 yards on the ground, their second highest total of the season. Only the 185 yards on the ground against Cleveland (the team’s first win of the year) topped Thursday’s effort against Tennessee.

“It’s nice to put up that amount of rush yards,” said Toby Gerhart who gained 53 yards on 14 carries before leaving in the fourth quarter with bruised ribs. “Credit the O-line, they were making some holes for us and I was a little jealous of (Jordan Todman’s 62-yard touchdown run). That’s the play I wanted but he house-called it. It was awesome for our team. We really grinded it out on them tonight.”

2. The Jaguars will need to shore up their pass-blocking before next season, whether it’s the offensive linemen, the tight ends, the backs or simply Bortles not getting rid of the ball sooner. Jacksonville allowed another four sacks of Bortles to run their season total to 66, eclipsing the franchise record of 63 set in 2001. They’ve given up at least four sacks in six consecutive games.

“We knew we were shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit (with the sacks),” left tackle Luke Joeckel said. “We didn’t press or anything. We just kept going out there and trying to make plays. Things got going and the momentum was rolling.”

–DT Sen’Derrick Marks waited until the last play of the game against the Titans to collect on a sizeable bonus. Marks had 7.5 sacks heading into the game, a half-sack shy of reaching eight sacks which would result in a $600,000 bonus. He waited until the final play of the game when he grabbed Titans quarterback Charlie Whitehurst around the ankles for a 9-yard loss. Marks said there wasn’t any pressure to get the final lucrative sack. “There wasn’t any pressure, there were jokes about it,” Marx said. “I’m taking the whole team out tonight, wherever we want to go. We’re going to have fun, but they already put that on ne before I even said it, so we’ll go out and have some fun with it.”

–DT Roy Miller did not suit up because of his ailing knee. He will have season-ending surgery on it in a couple of weeks. Miller really wanted to be on the field this week. He had just signed a four-year contract extension for approximately $16 million. That now locks down the Jaguars’ two defensive tackles, as Sen’Derrick Marks also inked a new four-year deal several weeks ago.

–DE Red Bryant said the Jaguars are now within one win of achieving a goal that head coach Gus Bradley threw at them last week. “Coach Bradley wanted us to have the mindset of being 9-5 and if we win both (final games), we get to the playoffs. He’s just trying to get this team to continue to raise its expectations.”

What we learned about the Titans:

1. Signing Leon Washington as a free agent during the 2013 season was a good move by the Titans. Washington was brought aboard primarily for kick return duties but he’s proven to be much more valuable than just a returner. The 32-year-old Jacksonville native who played at Florida State had a solid all-around game for the Titans against the Jaguars. Midway through the second quarter Washington had more yards in total offense than did the Jaguars (53-16). He had a 25-yard catch on a third-and-4 situation to keep alive a Titans drive. He scored the first touchdown of the game on an 8-yard catch in which he bulled his way into the end zone.

2. The Titans are one step closer to landing either Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston assuming the latter comes out early as expected. That’s a good thing because Charlie Whitehurst is simply not the answer to the Titans’ offensive woes. He has served his purpose with the Titans and that is to fill the role of the backup quarterback. He’s bounced around the league during his nine years as a pro but Thursday’s game against Jacksonville was just his fourth start. Zach Mettenberger was drafted in the sixth round by the Titans but he doesn’t appear to be the answer either.

–NG Sammie Hill was a thorn in the Jaguars’ passing attack. He was credited with one sack, one quarterback hit and one pass deflection. He also drew extra blocking help from the Jaguars offensive line in order to keep him away from quarterback Blake Bortles. Hill was despondent following the Titans’ ninth consecutive loss this season. He credited Jacksonville’s late first-half drive that resulted in a touchdown with 31 seconds left before intermission as maybe the key series of the game. “We should have stopped them on that last drive,” Hill said. “That score kind of changed momentum in their favor. It’s hard to beat them with the great defense that they have.”

–QB Charlie Whitehurst, who was 24-of-35 passing for 287 yards and one touchdown, said there will be no quitting on the Titans when they begin preparations for the season-ended against Indianapolis on Dec. 28. The Titans have lost nine games in a row and could close out the season on a 10-game losing streak. That, Whitehurst said, is unacceptable. “You are always what your record is, but we don’t believe we’re a 2-13 team. I think we have a lot of character in the locker room for sure and we know we can win these games. Nobody is giving up. You can see how hard we fight until the very end and that locker room expects to win next week.”

–RB Leon Washington turned in a solid game, leading the Titans in pass receptions with seven for 62 yards and the one score. He also had four punt returns for 27 yards, a kickoff return for 12 and ran the ball four times for 11 yards.


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