A trip to Nashville and back to cold, hard reality for the Jaguars — it’s the Titans who still control things in the AFC South.
Bad bounces, special teams mistakes and no Minshew Magic on Sunday meant a 33-30 shootout loss on the road to the Titans. It was the seventh straight defeat on the road against Tennessee.
But even with another agonizing loss to Tennessee (2-0), the reality is that this Jacksonville team is much closer to competing on a weekly basis than many expected them to.
The Jaguars erased a 14-point deficit and tied things with just over seven minutes to play, only to see the Titans emerge at the finish.
Jacksonville had a shot after Stephen Gostkowski hit a 49-yard field goal with 1 minute, 36 seconds to play — a drive kept alive by a pass interference call on Myles Jack — but the magic of Gardner Minshew II ran out.
On a second-and-1 from his own 45, Minshew tried to go across the middle to Keelan Cole but had his pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. Harold Landry picked it off and that was it.
Minshew finished 30 of 45 for 339 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, both off of tipped passes.
The Jaguars haven’t won at Tennessee since a 29-27 victory in 2013, the first year of Gus Bradley’s coaching career in Jacksonville.
It’s a short turnaround for the Jaguars, too.
Jacksonville hosts Miami on Thursday night at TIAA Bank Field at 8:20.
At 1-1, it’s a better start than many expected. And if not for numerous special teams gaffes, the Jaguars would likely be sitting alone at the top of the AFC South.
Normally automatic kicker Josh Lambo missed an extra-point attempt and had a flubbed squib kick recovered by the Titans at the end of the first half that led to a field goal. That four-point swing in a three-point game was the difference.
Minshew was exceptional in the second half, clawing back from a 24-10 deficit halftime hole and firing three touchdowns, including a 13-yarder to Chris Thompson with 7:25 to play to tie things at 30-all.
According to ESPN, Minshew is the first quarterback in Jaguars history to throw three touchdown passes in three consecutive games.
The Jaguars did well in slowing down running back and Yulee High School graduate Derrick Henry. That focus on Henry (25 carries, 84 yards) opened things up for Ryan Tannehill and he picked apart a young Jaguars secondary most of the day. Tannehill was 18 of 24 for 239 passing yards and a career-best four touchdowns.
Much like they did early against the Colts, the Jaguars looked off from the outset against the Titans. They allowed a three-play scoring drive that covered 77 yards and was capped on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Jonnu Smith.
They battled back after that start and limited Tannehill in the second half.
But the mistakes were costly.
Jack had a pass breakup on third down on the Titans' go-ahead drive, but was flagged for pass interference. Four plays later, Gostkowski hit the game-winner.
But it was Jacksonville’s special teams that had the more challenging day.
The Jaguars had a 35-yard field goal with 15 seconds to play before halftime and figured to go into the locker room down 21-10. But Lambo’s squib kick on the ensuing possession went right into the hands of Titans player Joshua Kalu at the 49. Two plays later, Gostkowski booted a 51-yard field goal.
Chris Claybrooks muffed a kickoff in the third quarter that went out of bounds at the 11. And he mishandled a punt that went out of bounds at the 13 early in the fourth.
• Running back James Robinson had the best game of his career, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
• First-round draft pick K’Lavon Chaisson recorded his first NFL sack, a bull rush where he was barely touched by an offensive lineman and dragged down Tannehill for a loss of 8. It pushed the Titans out of field goal range.
• Pressure on the quarterback continues to be a problem area for Jacksonville. Through two games, only Chaisson and Myles Jack have sacks.