If you were looking for a bounceback game from Marcus Mariota, you were left disappointed. If you were looking for virtually any shred of positivity from this team tonight, you came away empty-handed.
Mike Vrabel and his offensive staff are left to pick up the pieces — with a whole lot of questions to answer.
For the third consecutive week, the Titans dug themselves an early hole. For the second consecutive week, it was on Adoree’ Jackson. After forcing a three and out, Jackson chose to field a bouncing punt, only to fumble, giving it right back to Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars.
It took Jacksonville exactly one play to cash in, as Minshew found James O’Shaughnessy for the score. Minutes later, Minshew found D.J. Chark for another touchdown.
It was a 14-0 lead for the Jaguars after seven minutes of play.
The Titans were the perfect mix of bad offense and undisciplined football — all mixed with some downright bad officiating. Every time Tennessee did anything positive, it came back due to a hold somewhere on the field.
A steady rain made things even more difficult for Marcus Mariota, who wasn’t sharp to begin with.
An illegal formation penalty ended the Titans’ best drive of the first half, one that saw Mariota pick up two first downs on a couple of quarterback sneaks. Mariota had another conversion, finding Corey Davis to move the sticks — only to watch it get called back.
That was the theme of the first half. The Titans committed seven penalties for 65 yards in 30 minutes of play. On top of that, Mariota was just plain bad. Once again, he was missing routing throws, both short and in the intermediate.
A handicapped offense got some help from the defense, which settled in to hold Jacksonville scoreless in the second quarter.
A big play got the Titans off and running the second half. Mariota found Tajae Sharpe, who beat Jalen Ramsey, for a big gain. The throw flipped the field, putting Mariota and company in striking distance for the first time all night.
The drive stalled in the redzone, bringing up a 4th down — which Mike Vrabel opted to go for. Mariota was sacked on the 4th and six attempt, handing the ball back to the Jaguars.
Minshew came out and found Chark for a big chunk down the sidelines. He looked Dede Westbrook’s way later in the drive, finding him in the endzone, only for him to drop it. That took a touchdown away from Minshew, forcing the Jaguars to take three.
A 17-0 lead felt totally insurmountable.
It took the Titans until the fourth quarter to find the scoreboard. Finally, a good looking drive from Mariota offered some hope. Mariota picked up chunks of yardage with Corey Davis and Delanie Walker, getting the ball down to the one yard line. Derrick Henry did the rest, narrowing the Jacksonville lead to 17-7.
Remember that decision to go for the touchdown instead of taking the three points earlier from Vrabel? It was looming large at this moment.
Tennessee now needed a couple of stops. Jacksonville stayed aggressive with Minshew, mostly due to a totally ineffective Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars were able to get into field goal range after a questionable defensive pass interference call on Logan Ryan, along with more yardage from Chark. Dean Pees’ group eventually got the stop, but Josh Lambo added a field goal to take this to a 20-7 game.
Could the Titans answer? Not on the following drive. The Jaguars picked up their 7th... and 8th sack of the game on Mariota, just teeing off on Jamil Douglas inside. There will be plenty of talk about Mariota’s play vs. the offensive line tonight — the bottomline? Both were inexcusably bad — both working against each other at times.
The Jaguars would come out on the following drive and put the Titans away. Fournette found daylight for the first time all night, taking a 69 yard run down inside the Titans’ ten yard line. Before that carry, Fournette had -8 yards rushing on the night.
Jacksonville actually didn’t score any points on that drive, choosing to go for it on 4th down from the five. But just over three minutes were left on the clock.
The Jaguars picked up their first win of the year, moving to 1-2 on the year. The Titans joined them at the 1-2 mark.
The Titans will pick back up in ten days against the Atlanta Falcons on September 29th.