The Jaguars were eager to avenge their AFC Championship loss against the Patriots, and did so without RB Leonard Fournette.
Bortles big day through the air was a big reason why - combined with some fantastic receiver play from Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook.
Bortles went for over 370 yards on 64% of his throws, adding three touchdowns to one interception.
The last time Bortles threw for over 370 yards, the Jaguars lost to the San Francisco 49ers 44-33.
The following week, Bortles disappointed by following his 382 yard performance with a 158 yard performance - throwing zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He completed only 44% of his passes.
The Jaguars would lose that game by a final of 15-10 - to the Tennessee Titans.
Fournette-Less Jags More Dangerous
Offensively, the Jaguars are more explosive without RB Leonard Fournette in the lineup - but that ultimately hinges on which Bortles shows up.
The Jekyll-Hyde dilemma that the Jaguars have on their hands with Bortles is what contributes to the teams inconsistency. In games where Bortles is off, it helps having a guy like Fournette in the lineup to take the majority of the offensive workload. It takes the ball out of Bortles hands and prevents the likelihood of turnovers from taking place.
Against the Patriots, Bortles impressed with his accuracy. Again, the play he received from his pass catchers helped ensure a big day through the air.
The Titans had the Jaguars number all last season. Historically, the Titans have had the Jaguars number dating back to the 1999 season. Defeating the Jaguars in the 1999 AFC Championship marked the third loss for Jacksonville that season - all at the hands of the Titans.
The MMCNB crew continue to gel after two weeks into the regular season. Having three interceptions to their credit - two of which came from two offseason additions - is a very promising start.
Yes, the aggressiveness of CB Malcolm Butler has caused him to get beat on the deep ball. Expect the coaching staff to work with Butler in helping him harness his aggressiveness and be more cerebral when attacking the ball early.
Adoree’ Jackson - who plucked his first interception of his professional career - has also been giving cushion to receivers that has allowed for easy targets underneath.
This is strategic. Here’s why.
Jackson’s closing speed is one of the unique attributes of his game. He is essentially trying to bait QBs into making the “safe” throw. As the season progresses, those “safe” throws may be a little more dangerous for QBs.
Kevin Byard has yet to record his first interception of the season - but it could happen on Sunday against the QB he last picked off in Bortles.
Expect Byard to still help shadow Jackson in coverage and help over the top, but not for much longer. Jackson will eventually earn the coaching staff’s trust to cover the deep ball solo, thus enabling Byard to slide over to assist Butler - who doesn’t have the stride for stride speed - over the top.
When that happens, MMCNB will have evolved to a potent secondary.
With the developing dominance of the Titans pass rushers, the secondary will be afforded more opportunity to shine as the weeks go by. If the elusive Texans QB Deshaun Watson had a tough time, Bortles could be in for a long afternoon.
The Jaguars secondary remains the strength of that football team. Corner play from Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye contribute to teams being discouraged to throw the football.
The Titans know how to beat the Jaguars. It involves a calculated approach in a game plan that remains centered around the ground game success. A solid game on the ground essentially neutralized the effectiveness of the Jaguar corners.
OC Matt LaFleur went into the Houston game with an excellent game plan that included the install of the Wildcat offense. Could we see some more Wildcat looks against Jacksonville?
A lot of the game plan is dependent (to a degree) on who will be under center.
If Mariota’s health is improved and he can add a few of those “can’t make throws” into his game, he would be a more explosive piece to have in the lineup especially in the Wildcat formation.
Remember, Mariota does have a receiving touchdown to his credit when lined up as a receiver. He also provides more of a threat as a runner.
Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis ARE the offense heading into Jacksonville. The two backs have confidence in each other and the team has shown confidence in each back to get the job done when their number is called.
Will the Titans have their bookend tackles suited up Sunday? That will also become more clear throughout the week. With or without their starting tackles, LaFleur and Keith Carter will make schematic adjustments to fit the personnel that is available on Sunday.
It’s also fair to assume the Titans won’t be as cautious with Blaine Gabbert if he gets the start against his former team.
Why in the world would the Titans choose arguably the best secondary to let Gabbert loose? Well, Gabbert defeated essentially the same Jaguars secondary last season as a member of a less talented Cardinals team - going for 241 yards with two touchdowns to one interception.
Will Gabbert be chucking up the football all game long? Obviously not. But will he have a little more opportunity to make plays downfield - yes.
It will be interesting to see how the injury report looks by Friday afternoon. The Titans will be preparing for all possible scenarios.
That’s something good coaches do. That helps turn the good coaches into the great ones. Making the most with the personnel available.