JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Pro Bowl cornerback may be on his way out of town, but Minshew Mania is alive and well, and not going anywhere.
On a week dominated by Jalen Ramsey’s trade request and a season bordering on lost, the Jaguars came out and turned in their most inspired performance of 2019 with their rookie quarterback and a raging defense leading the way.
Playing on a short week that was overshadowed by the Ramsey drama, the Jaguars got two quick touchdown passes from Gardner Minshew II and rolled over the Titans 20-7 on a rainy Thursday night at TIAA Bank Field.
It had the feel of a season saver for Jacksonville.
Facing the potential of an 0-3 start with its franchise quarterback out and a disgruntled player in Ramsey making headlines at every opportunity, Jacksonville desperately needed something positive.
It got it.
A defense that was eviscerated in the opener has now put together back-to-back statements and erased the Titans with a nine-sack performance, the big game turned in by Calais Campbell (three sacks). It held Tennessee out of the end zone for three quarters.
Minshew, the mustached rookie from Washington State, continued to shine. He threw a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, including a gorgeous 22-yarder to D.J. Chark for a 14-0 lead that the Jaguars never came close to surrendering.
“It’s all good. I really think it’s good," coach Doug Marrone said of Minshew. "Actually, it’s remarkable, to be honest with you.”
SLIDESHOW: Jaguars top Titans on at The Bank
When the Jaguars faced a pinch of trouble following a Derrick Henry touchdown run that cut their lead to 17-7 with 12 minutes and 4 seconds to play, Minshew responded. He drove Jacksonville down the field and set up a 48-yard field goal by Josh Lambo for a 20-7 edge and some breathing room.
Minshew (20 of 30, 204 yards) became just the second quarterback in Jaguars history to throw a touchdown pass in his first three NFL games. Byron Leftwich pulled it off in 2003.
"No, because I know the preparation I put in," said Minshew when asked if his play was surprising. :I know the guys that I have around me and the coaches we have have done everything they can to prepare me. I’ve never felt unprepared. Didn’t have much experience but I’m definitely prepared.”
Ramsey, of course, remained a story.
Hours before kickoff, a podcast that he did with Nate Burleson was posted where the Florida State product claimed his trade request stemmed from “some disrespectful things were said on their (Jacksonville) end that made me definitely walk out and call my agent as soon as I walked out. And I told ‘em, I said, ‘It's time. My time is up here in Jacksonville. I want to ask for a trade.'"
Ramsey started and played as well as always. If it was his last outing in Jacksonville — various reports say he’ll be dealt within the next 10 days — Ramsey went out with a good one. He finished with nine tackles, second on the team behind Ronnie Harrison's 10.
“If something happens, then it’s going to happen," Campbell said of Ramsey's future. "I have no control on what happens to him. I feel like when he is on the team we are a whole lot better but I trust whatever happens and hope we can be the best we can be.”
Whether or not Ramsey is in black and teal after Thursday or not, the Jaguars proved that they could tune out the distractions and deliver.
The Titans pummeled Jacksonville during their trip to TIAA Bank Field last December, the lowlight a 99-yard run by Yulee native Derrick Henry that was replayed thousands of times throughout the week.
But Jacksonville hemmed in Henry most of the game until his 1-yard touchdown run with 12:04 to play.
The Jaguars were on the board early.
Jacksonville used a short field for its first touchdown, a muffed punt that Leon Jacobs recovered at the 7. Minshew lobbed a touchdown pass to James O’Shaugnessy on the following play. Minshew hit Chark on the 22-yard strike less than three minutes later.