Perhaps the most frustrating things for Jaguars fans and maybe even the coaching staff is they don’t know which team will show up on any given Sunday. Young, developing teams need to have a personality and build it. The Jaguars have never done that consistently. For most of this year they could count on the defense stopping the run and keeping them in games. Against Tennessee they had some success on offense and scored in the red zone but the defense was shredded in the first half, giving up 21 points.
With quarterback Marcus Mariota executing Interim Head Coach Mike Mularkey’s game plan, the Titans didn’t have any problem moving the ball downfield after an initial three and out. Tight End Delanie Walker creates a match up problem for most teams and the Jaguars defensive scheme played right into the Titans hands. Mariota found Walker in the end zone matched one on one with Jonathan Cyprien for a TD to take a 14-6 lead. Even at the line of scrimmage it was obvious Walker would be open, all Mariota had to do was find him.
On offense, the Jaguars scored in the red zone, a little pick play to Rashad Greene but Jason Myers missed the extra point and the Jaguars trailed 7-6. The second Jaguars TD was also in the red zone, a run by TJ Yeldon, his first rushing TD of the year. Gus Bradley decided to chase points early in the game, never a good decision and the Jaguars failed on the 2-point conversion to trail 14-12. The 2-point play was just a simple 5 wide receiver hook play, not giving Bortles many options.
Under two minutes, the Titans converted on 3rd down when the Jaguars rushed seven and didn’t get to Mariota giving him time to find the open man downfield. Bad tackling allowed Tennessee to get to the one-yard line with just 3 seconds to play. Mularkey passed on a field goal; instead knowing his offensive line was blowing open holes on the Jaguars front four. A simple off tackle run gave the Titans a TD and a 21-12 lead at halftime.
By deferring to the second half after winning coin toss, the Titans did steal an extra possession but the Jaguars stopped them to open the third quarter and forced a punt.
Looking more in sync than in the first half, the Jaguars offense marched down the field, TJ Yeldon doing a nice job running the ball and picking up the blitz with Bortles buying some time to find the open receiver. Eventually Bortles got wide and had some time to hit Allen Robinson again for a TD to pull within 21-19. Jason Myers hit the extra point, this time from near the middle of the field. They’ve tried both hash marks and the middle so they should probably pick one and stick with it.
But tackling problems continued to plague the Jaguars defense in the second half. Mariota hit Doral Green-Beckham across the middle with Davon House trailing for a 47-yard TD. Three Jaguars had a shot at Green-Beckham after he caught the ball but none could bring him down and he stepped into the end zone. 28-19 Titans.
Right back down the field, Bortles with a big drive and another TD pass to Allen Robinson puts the Jaguars back within three. Myers again missed the extra point, pretty much ensuring the team will bring some kickers in this week and look elsewhere. Growing with a kicker is one thing, letting him cost you games is something else. If you’re wondering about Josh Scobee, he’s in Jacksonville making $3 million not playing. He’s a possibility and the Jaguars aren’t against bringing him back. After stopping the Titans, Bortles took them right back down to the red zone again, this time hitting Julius Thomas for a TD and the lead 32-28.
That’s when the game got crazy.
On 3rd and 11, the defense was about to give the ball back to Bortles to add to the lead, brining seven players against Mariota and forcing him out of the pocket. Problem was, he was headed straight up field and outran everybody for an 87-yard TD, the longest rushing TD in the NFL this year. 35-32. Titans.
On the next play, Stefan Wisnewski snapped the ball over Bortles head and it was recovered in the end zone by Wesley Woodyard of the Titans for a 42-32 lead.
This time a little dump pass on a circle route from Bortles to Yeldon resulted in a 67-yard gain and a first down in the red zone. Bortles to Robinson from seven yards out made the Jaguars 6 for 6 in the red zone for the day and brought them within three points again, 42-39.
Pretty good clock management and solid defense got the Jaguars the ball back with just under 3 minutes to play but four pass calls and a sack on 4th down ended the Jaguars chances.
I wasn’t sure if Mike Mularkey was trying to stick it to the Jaguars at the end of the game or not. There were a couple of chances he had to kneel on it and run the clock out but instead he ran it in there and even tried play action on 4th down, looking for another TD. Either way, the game ended and the Jaguars fell to 4-8.
This was another one of those games where you can point to specific things that got the Jaguars beat. Bad tackling, missed extra points, a bad snap and failing to get off the field on 3rd down on defense cost them a chance at a win against a “beatable” opponent. If good teams beat teams they’re supposed to beat, the Jaguars haven’t gotten there yet.