JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - I've gotten so used to seeing the Jaguars lose over the last two years I fought against the constant thought when the Titans had the ball, every play was about to go for a touchdown. That didn't happen in the first half as the Jaguars took a 13-7 lead into the locker room.
While Maurice Jones Drew isn't the player he was two years ago when he lead the lead in rushing, he was pretty effective in the first half against Tennessee, especially in the first quarter. The Jaguars have to get him involved in the offense either running the ball or throwing it to him in space in order to be successful. He's still the key to getting the offense going.
That's how the Jaguars scored their first TD in their first possession of the year, feeing MJD the ball to take a 7-0 lead.
A ball knocked out of Chris Johnson's hand rolls right to Paul Posluszny for a turnover. That hadn't happened since 2007. Johnson can't get the handle on the ball near the goal line and the Jaguars come up with the ball at the bottom of a pile. And an overthrow by Jake Locker is intercepted by Dwayne Gratz, a nice catch that we haven't seen in ten years. As I said in the preseason, wouldn't it be nice if Gratz is one of those guys the ball finds in the secondary and he can make those plays. Despite those turnovers, the Jaguars were only able to muster two Josh Scobee field goals and lead 13-7. If you're the Jaguars you're happy to have your first halftime lead of the year. If you're the Titans, you're happy to only be down six after turning it over three times in one half.
I was asked during the first half, "Are we on fire?" to which I responded, "No, this is how you're supposed to play."
These are all plays professionals are supposed to make. Young, old, experienced or not, when the play is there, you have to make it if you want any chance to win. You can't have silly penalties, dropped balls, dumb throws and missed blocks. The team knows they have a quarterback deficiency and they know Chad Henne will turn into, well Chad Henne a couple of times a game. He did that with two turnovers that lead to points for Tennessee and gave the Titans some momentum.
So with a 20-13 lead, a young Jaguars team, without a win this year, was trying to figure out a way to come up with a victory.
Small things, like downing a punt at the one without your foot going into the end zone help contribute to that. Which means the Titans have to throw out of their end zone. That leads to a safety and a 22-13, two score lead.
"Luck is the residue of design," is one of my favorite sayings. Branch Rickey coined it in the 40's and it rings true today. You make your own luck, good and bad.
My least favorite term in football is "prevent defense" because all it usually does is "prevent" you from winning. So when the Jaguars gave up a TD to Ryan Fitzpatrick with over 4 minutes to play, the inevitable seemed to be on the horizon. An ill-conceived three and out solidified that feeling at Tennessee had the ball needing only a field goal to win.
That's when the Jaguars playing the ENTIRE game paid off with a Will Blackmon strip and score for a 29-20 lead. They've played through the final whistle for Gus Bradley all year long and in this time it paid off.
And of course, it comes down to one play, an onside kick. Recover, and the game is over. Give it up, and the Titans have a chance to win. A nice play by Jonathan Cyprien secured the Jaguars victory, the first for Gus Bradley as a head coach in the NFL.