You never know what to expect from two teams not going to the playoffs facing each other at the end of the season. The Jaguars are going to play hard; you know that from what they’ve done all year. Tennessee also played hard, kind of surprising since they weren’t going anywhere and their backup quarterback was still their starter.
At 4-10 and 5-9 (amazingly with second place on the line in the division) both coaches played the game as you would have hoped: loose, entertaining and with a little edge. In the first half alone, the Jaguars and Titans went for it on 4th down 4 times. One Tennessee attempt was at 4th and goal on the 1. One Jaguars attempt was a mid field. While you might not think that’s sound football judgment, when you’re not playing for anything but to win THIS game, I like it.
The Jaguars put together a nifty two-minute drill at the end of the half to take a 13-6 lead. Inexplicably, the PAT was blocked by a guy coming off the edge, leaving the Jaguars lead at 7 instead of eight.
As the second half started, you could sense a momentum shift towards the titans. Despite another successful 4th down attempt by the Jaguars, they could only muster a field goal and lead 16-6. For the next 12 minutes it was all Titans. Two TD drives, helped along by Jaguars penalties and obvious defensive mistakes, gave Tennessee a 20-16 lead.
Playing with backups and third stringers, attrition stared to deplete the Jaguars lineup in pretty stark ways. They started the day without Geno Hayes and Russell Allen at linebacker and lost DT Brandon Deadrick in the first half. So it was relatively easy for the Titans to take advantage of that. One thing Head Coach Gus Bradley had talked about this week was better communication in the defensive backfield. That didn’t happen, allowing the Titans a pretty simple TD to take a 3rd quarter lead.
Working the ball downfield and down 4 points, the Jaguars faced 4th down inside the Tennessee 35 yard line. Bradley decided to stay aggressive and went for it, only to have MJD stoned at the line of scrimmage. As much as I like that attitude at this point in the season, I think I’d have taken the 3 points there to pull within one FG of a win.
Instead, the Titans ran the ball in their 4-minute offense to perfection, barely giving the Jaguars a chance to make a difference.
Chad Henne tried to sneak one over the nickel back to Marcedes Lewis one too many times and was intercepted to end the game.
The Jaguars are now 4-11 and will finish in the 3rd spot in the AFC South (making a difference in their schedule next year, probably for the better.)
In their final home game of the year, the Jaguars proved two things:
1) They still can and do play hard.
2) They still need a lot of help.