Home losing streak ends as Titans top Jaguars 42-39 in wild affair

Most Tennessee Titans-Jacksonville Jaguars games of late have been uneventful affairs, devoid of much interest. Even when they were close, like Jacksonville’s 19-13 home win on November 19th, they have been dull affairs, without many notable plays. The last interesting one might have been Chris Johnson’s big day in the 2009 Titans’ first one and the last really good one might have been the Titans’ come-from-behind road triumph in 2008. Coming off the Thursday night affair just over two weeks ago, there wasn’t much reason to expect today’s game to develop into the most exciting of the nine early games today. Yet, a 42-39 explosion of points and offensive proficiency broke out as the Titans got their first home win since they beat the Jaguars in Nashville last October.

The game certainly didn’t start too quickly, with no first downs in the first three possessions and the Titans in third-and-11 on their second possession. Then something that did not happen very often last time around started happening: the teams started converting third downs. Marcus Mariota to Dorial Green-Beckham for 26. Mariota to Kendall Wright for 9 on third-and-1. Mariota 9 yards to Wright again, on the same concept even, this time on third-and-5. It was almost a pity his first touchdown pass of the game, Craig Stevens’ second score in as many weeks, came on second down. Blake Bortles would match Mariota’s three third-down conversions in as many tries before notching his own throwing score to make it 7-7.  Next Titans possession, Mariota to Delanie Walker for 29 on third-and-7, then to Walker again on third-and-goal for a 14-6 lead.

Yes, 14-6. Jaguars kicker Jason Myers missed the extra point. After a pass went through Dorial Green-Beckham’s hands, the Jaguars got two more third-down conversions, the last a score, to make it 14-12. They went for two, and it stayed there. With three timeouts and 1:45 to work with, Marcus Mariota got the Titans down to scoring position. At first-and-goal from the 1 with just :05 to play and no timouets, Mike Mularkey chose to take a risk.  Eschewing a fade that if incomplete would preserve time for a field goal attempt, Antonio Andrews got the ball and ended up in the end zone for a 21-12 halftime lead (third-down conversion: DGB for 20 on third-and-10). Like the first quarter, the third only featured a single score, another Jaguars tally on third-and-goal from the 1 (total third downs converted: four) to make it 21-19.

Then, the fourth quarter happened:

  • Marcus Mariota smartly stepped up into the pocket to avoid a rusher and found Green-Beckham about 25 yards downfield. DGB avoided a couple Jaguars tacklers and raced into the end zone for a 47-yard score to make it 28-19 with 14:49 to play.
  • Jacksonville rode the Robinsons (Denard 2-20 rushing, Allen 3-60 receiving) for 80 yards and a score. Myers missed another extra point to keep it at 28-25 with 11:52 to play.
  • Mariota was pressured on third down and this time couldn’t avoid the Jaguars player. Fumble-sack, Jacksonville at the 10, and one play later it was 32-28 Jaguars with 10:09 to play.
  • Third-and-13 on the next Titans possession, Mariota looks for somebody to pass to, and eventually takes off. And starts running. And keeps running. And avoids one tackle. And doesn’t step until he is in the end zone 87 yards later to put the Titans back on top, 35-32, with 8:30 to play.
  • Second-and-4 for Jacksonville, and one of the worst snaps you’ll see by a veteran center goes high and to Blake Bortles’ right. He can’t fall on it, nor could David Bass, but Wesley Woodyard does in the end zone for a 42-32 Tennessee lead with 7:46 to play.
  • Tired of the sluggish Robinsons drive, Jacksonville goes 80 yards in four plays to cut it to 42-39 with 6:28 to play.
  • Mariota gets one third-down conversion but not another, so Jacksonville gets a chance to drive for a tie or win down just 3 with 2:50 to play.
  • B.W. Webb finally does what none of a series of defensive backs had done and broke up a pass intended for Allen Robinson on third down. Dick LeBeau goes cover-0 blitz on fourth-and-4 and Da’Norris Searcy and Karl Klug split a sack of Bortles.
  • The Bortles sack ended at 2:02, so the Titans could not quite run the clock out from first-and-goal. On fourth-and-goal with just :23 left, Mularkey rightly chose to go for it, and the Jaguars were flagged for pass interference, giving the Titans an automatic first down and the chance to bring out victory formation for the first time since Week 1.

Whew.

News, notes, and miscellaneous observations:

  • The Jaguars finished 10-14 on third downs, the Titans 8-13. Every Jacksonville drive that included a third-down conversion ended in the end zone. Five of six Tennessee drives with a third-down conversion did as well.
  • Mariota finished 20-29 for 268 yards, three scores, and the one interception (as noted, not his fault). He also had 9 carries for 112 yards and the score, becoming the Titans’ first 100-yard rusher since Chris Johnson in December 2013.
  • Leading receivers: by catches, Delanie Walker with 8 catches for 92 yards and the score. By yards, DGB at 5-119 and a score. The only incompletion thrown DGB’s way was the interception that went through his hands.
  • Antonio Andrews finished with 58 yards on 13 carries, including the score. David Cobb was 13-40. The difference in YPC and, likely effectiveness by advanced stats, was Andrews managed a 22-yard run (excellent blocking, and he avoided a bad tackle attempt by the safety) while Cobb’s was 9.
  • Mariota officially was sacked four times. Aside from the fumblesack, the ugliest was a play where he tripped over Cobb’s feet. The DGB TD wasn’t the only play where he showed some good pocket movement ability, though.
  • Allen Robinson led the Jaguars with 10 catches for 153 yards and 3 scores. Players who were in coverage on passes completed his way: Coty Sensabaugh, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, B.W. Webb (who played in nickel as Wreh-Wilson seemed to be benched), Perrish Cox, and Michael Griffin. I think that’s it. Webb had the key pass defensed late, and Sensabaugh had a good tackle short of the sticks on an early third down, but yeah.
  • The offensive success both ways meant neither team had good starting field position. Before the fourth down stop, the Titans’ average starting field position was their own 19 (own 37 the best). Outside of the fumblesack, Jacksonville’s average was a hair better, their own 25.
  • Two sacks of Bortles in about 38 dropbacks. The one at the end of the game, and the other on a sack by Jurrell Casey that was probably mostly about the coverage.
  • Michael Griffin was credited with a team-high 9 tackles (7 solo). I’d be hard-pressed to single him out as somebody who played well. Or, for that matter, any other Titans defender. Maybe some performances were better than I thought, but it’s hard to credit defenders after a performance like that.
  • The simplest explanation for the result: Tennessee scored 6 touchdowns and got 6 points after them. Jacksonville scored 6 touchdowns and get 3 points after them. I’m not sure if that’s the “best” explanation for the result, but it is perhaps the most fundamental.
  • Jacksonville came into the game ranking 30th-best in the NFL in percentage of red zone possessions that ended in touchdowns. They scored 6 touchdowns in 6 red zone trips today.
  • This was the first time since the Lions game in Week 3 of 2012 (three defensive/special teams scores) the Titans won a game where they finished with more turnovers than the opponent (2 v. 1).
  • I’ll run the numbers later, but offhand I’d guess this comes out as the Titans’ most consistently successful offensive performance in years.

Snap report Monday, really, unless I end up working more than 16 hours.