It was slow start on both sides today in Jacksonville — and the pace never really picked up.
It was an unnecessary risk from Jacksonville, considering the nature of this one and the fact that the Titans were playing without Marcus Mariota.
As it turns out — playing without Marcus Mariota wasn’t an option for long. Blaine Gabbert got the start today for the banged up Mariota, but quickly exited the game after taking a shot to the head.
Through all of that, Tennessee struck first with a field goal from Ryan Succop to take a 3-0 lead.
Just seven days after throwing for nearly 400 yards against the Patriots, Blake Bortles started very slowly against the Titans. Bortles struggled with accuracy early on, which handicapped an offense that was without Leonard Fournette.
Jacksonville finally got on the board in the middle of the second quarter, adding a field goal to bring things back to even.
Succop missed a chance to take the lead before halftime, keeping the 3-3 score at the break.
The Titans finally put together a driving coming out of the half. It was aided with a defensive pass interference call, then Mariota got it out to Corey Davis on a short route, who turned up field for a 20 yard gain. Matt LaFleur opted to go to the wildcat formation with Derrick Henry from there, but the drive stalled shortly after.
Succop hit this chance, giving the Titans a 6-3 lead.
Meanwhile on the other side, Bortles continued to struggle. Give some credit to the Titans defense, but Bortles was missing simple passes left and right. The Jaguars couldn’t get anything going on the ground either through three quarters.
Finally, Jacksonville began to string first downs together to begin the fourth quarter. It was Bortles moving the chains with his feet, then T.J. Yeldon doing the same. However, a holding call derailed that momentum and eventually forced a fourth down.
Josh Lambo hit from 38 yards out to bring things back to even at 6-6 with 10:48 to play.
Marcus Mariota — without some feeling in his fingers — had to figure out a way to answer. He began that answer with a quick strike to Jonnu Smith to get across midfield, then he followed that up by hitting Davis on a crosser to convert on third down.
Just like that, the Titans were in field goal range. Luke Stocker got the Titans closer with a catch and run down to the Jacksonville 16. LaFleur chose to bleed the clock with a couple of Derrick Henry carries from there and could not convert on third down.
Succop split the sticks one more time, bringing the lead to 9-6.
The Titans got the stop they needed on the next drive as Jurrell Casey and Harold Landry came up with back to back pressures. Jacksonville punted with just under three minutes to play.
Marcus Mariota was able to pick up a key third down conversion on a read-option keep to keep the clock rolling. Jacksonville burned up all of their timeouts before the two minute warning hit.
The Jaguars would get one final shot, getting the ball back with 20 seconds to play, but would come up short one final time.
The Titans improve to 2-1, grabbing back to back massive wins over division opponents. Considering the injury situation, those wins could not be any bigger.
Hats off to Mike Vrabel and his staff.