There weren’t any over-the-top celebrations after the Jaguars win at home against Tennessee on Saturday. It seemed like they knew this is how they were supposed to play all year.
“This game was who we are,” Sen’Derrick Marks said in front of his locker. “I guess we kept shooting ourselves in the foot all year and it seemed like today, we didn’t. We did everything that was asked, stuck with the game plan, moved the ball and stopped them on defense. I think we just had a better understanding of what they were trying to do to us compared to what they did to us last game.”
For only the second time this year, the Jaguars scored on their opening possession against the Titans. A nice drive down the field with Marqis Lee catching a TD pass to give the Jaguars a 7-0 lead. It was Blake Bortles at quarterback, but he looked nothing like the Bortles we’ve seen for the first 14 games of the year. Decisive and accurate, Blake wasn’t waiting around in the pocket but rather making decisions and going with them quickly. And it was working. The Jaguars offense kept it up and the defense held up their end of the deal taking a 10-0 lead.
“From the first play, it was ‘Let’s be efficient.'” Bortles said in his post game remarks. “That was kind of our thing this week – ‘Let’s be efficient, let’s take the completions and when they give us a shot let’s take it when we can.’ I think we were able to do that, and I thought for the most part, we were pretty efficient throughout the game.”
That’s when the wrong mistakes at the wrong time came back to bite them again, Sheldon Day getting called for roughing the passer on third and long, extending the drive and helping the Titans to a TD to make it 10-7.
It was 19-7 at halftime as Chris Ivory (who fumbled again) scored from one yard out, the drive a combination of good play calls by offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and solid throws by Blake Bortles. And although he missed an extra point, Jason Myers hit a 48-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the half to lead by 12.
The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter with Jason Myers adding his 3rd and 4th to give the Jaguars a 25-10 lead.
It was a little more conservative decision-making for Interim Head Coach Doug Marrone than expected. Taking field goals and the points from Myers instead of going for it on 4th and short a couple of times near midfield.
You could sense the Jaguars confidence growing in the third quarter despite a few of the same old mistakes that have gotten them beat all year. Both TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory had left the game by the middle of the third quarter with injuries. Both with reoccurrences of their ankle and hamstring injuries. The Jaguars also broke open the playbook when the Titans drew within 25-17 with an end around pass from Lee to Bortles for a TD.
“I’m proud of the guys keeping their foot on the gas pedal. Getting points, kicking field goals.” Bortles said. It’s the first time since the ’85 Bears did it with Walter Payton and Jim McMahon that players have thrown TD passes to each other in the same game.
“I was telling somebody earlier that of the two or three inches we seem to be missing on all season, it kind of came together today,” Blake added. “He (Allen Robinson) made some unbelievable plays, had some unbelievable releases at the line to get open and get off of press coverage and did a really good job. So it felt good for him. I was really excited for him to have a big day.”
And as well as Jalen Ramsey has been playing, it was only a matter of time before he picked one off and ran it for a TD. On the first play from scrimmage for the Titans, Matt Cassell threw a little out pattern but Ramsey stepped in front and scored to make it 38-17.
In their first game without Gus Bradley on the sidelines, it was baffling to see the Jaguars play the way you expected to see them perform all year. Some mistakes that all teams make but competitive and effective most of the time.
“The 1st person who went through my mind was Gus and his family. The 2nd was our fans,” Marrone said in his post-game remarks.
Certainly this team had some extra motivation after being embarrassed by the Titans on national television in October but more than anything, it was the play by Bortles that kept the Jaguars from losing. Routine throws, fairly accurate and quick decision-making without turning it over saw the Jaguars moving the chains, controlling field position and scoring points. It’s a shame they couldn’t play like this for Bradley but as has been said all year, regardless of who the coach is, if your quarterback can’t play, you can’t win.
Marrone said, “This win isn’t about me. Gus Bradley is a major part of this.”
And Malik Jackson summed it up this way:
“The fans did an awesome job, the ones that came. I mean God bless them. It was huge. I don’t think they realize the noise they make really hurts the offense, so we really appreciate you guys and we’re going to keep trying to get this thing going, win next week and go into the offseason with some wins to build on for next year.”