On a very beautiful and lively Thursday evening in Nashville, the Tennessee Titans entered tonight’s game with one mission: Show America what the Titans are really about. Tennessee used a balanced offensive attack that featured an effective running game, a passing game that showed its potency coupled with an offensive line that bludgeoned the Jacksonville Jaguars’s front seven. It added up to a 36-22 victory. The Titans improved to 4-4 and the Jaguars fell to 2-5.
In the first half, the Titans jumped out to a 27-0 lead. Also, in the first thirty minutes:
- The Titans had 20 first downs to Jacksonville’s three (all three first downs came via passing plays)
- The Titans converted 6-of-8 third downs while Jacksonville converted 1-of-7 third downs
- The Titans had 135 rushing yards on 22 carries (6.1 yards per rush) while Jacksonville had five rushing yards on five total carries
“I think today was really the first time all three phases played a complete game,” Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “It’s all you can really ask for. Those guys deserve all the credit. Now, we just have to continue to roll and take it one day at a time.”
Mariota completed 18 out of 22 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 81.8 percent of his passes and his quarterback rating was 148.1. Backup QB Matt Cassel came in and finished the game. Titans ran the ball 43 times for 214 yards for the game. The idea of ‘Exotic Smash Mouth Football’ has indeed come to the fore.
In the second half, Jacksonville scored their first touchdown of the game. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles hooked up with tight end Julius Thomas on a 10 yard touchdown strike. Bortles converted the two-point conversion on a designed QB draw and the Jaguars were down 27-8 with 11:05 to go in the third quarter.
Subsequently, the Titans killed off any hope of a Jacksonville comeback. After the Jaguars’ score, Mariota led the Titans on a seven play, 75 yard drive capped off by a four yard touchdown pass to Rishaud Matthews. At that point the score was 33-8 with 6:53 left in the 3rd quarter.
“I’ve been in a lot of games in my career and I don’t know if there’s any cushion, but it was—when we came out at the half, it was the full game plan,” Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey said. “Nothing was going to change, we were going to play the game. I’ve been around long enough to know, don’t get comfortable.
When asked about the touchdown in the second half, Mularkey said:
“That’s important, that was an important drive, more than you know. That was important, because I think you talk about having momentum coming out in the second half and they’ve been going right down the field. For us to go right back says something about our team.”
Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles finished up 33/54 for 337 yards and 3 touchdown passes. However, 273 of those yards and all three touchdowns came when the Jaguars were down by at least 21 points in the second half.
“The first half was inexcusable. We didn’t come out to play. I don’t know what the answer is,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley explained at his press conference. “Do we play with some anxiety? Yeah, I can say I felt like we pressed too much but some of the plays that weren’t being made had nothing to do with anxiety. I don’t know if it’s focus. We have a high standard and we didn’t meet that standard. There’s not a lot to be said, but it wasn’t good enough, obviously.
“My talk at halftime was to rally together and come out and show your spirit. When you’re talking like that at halftime, you know you didn’t play with great effort. It’s challenging. I think there are some anxieties that are part of it. But again, enough plays, when you look it really didn’t have anything to do with anxiety. It was more just focus and play that we are capable of making. So, I am making excuses. It was bad.”
Running back DeMarco Murray had 21 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown. His fellow tailback, rookie Derrick Henry had 16 carries for 60 yards and ran for his first touchdown of his career.
“The offensive line and everybody else did a great job to allow me to do that,” Henry said when asked about scoring his first NFL touchdown. “It felt good, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Defensively, the Titans were outstanding when the game’s outcome was in doubt. Avery Williamson and Derrick Morgan recorded one sack each. Defensive back Jason McCourty lead the Titans with 11 tackles, Williamson and Valentino Blake each had seven tackles. Tennessee was able to overcome the losses of Perrish Cox and Rashard Johnson in the secondary.
In the last four games, Mariota has thrown 10 touchdowns, one interception and lost one fumble. The Titans are 3-1 in that stretch. Marcus is on pace for 3,748 passing yards, 28 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions as reported by ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky.
The Tennessee Titans next game will be against the San Diego Chargers November 6th at Qualcomm Stadium.
The images used in this article are by James Kenney, Weston Kenney and Mark Zaleski of the Associated Press. Additional images are by Frederick Breedon and Andy Lyons of Getty Images.