A gutted roster — the third quarterback of the year — a six game losing streak? The Titans were playing for the AFC South title on Saturday night on the road, and frankly, it was tough for anyone to feel good about their chances. The Jaguars were hot entering, clawing their way back as the Titans fell off of the map over the last six weeks.
And yet, Mike Vrabel’s group came out ready to roll. The Titans converted two fourth downs on their second drive of the night, which was a sign of Vrabel’s mindset. Those two conversions created a 3-0 lead, and then a big defensive play allowed them to add more.
Rashad Weaver recovered a botched option-reverse play, spoiling potential Jacksonville points. Derrick Henry went to work on the ground, then Chig Okonkwo cashed in to score the game’s first touchdown. Josh Dobbs started hot, pushing Tennessee out to a 10-0 lead.
From the fullback spot! @ChigTweets— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 8, 2023
: Watch #TENvsJAX on ESPN/ABC pic.twitter.com/dvKkRheaym
It took longer than expected, but Trevor Lawrence finally got the Jaguars on the board. The second-year pro found Christian Kirk for six, cutting the lead to 10-7 with 2:36 to play.
You felt like the Titans needed points before half, and that’s just what Dobbs did. He led Tennessee right down the field to the 20, where the drive stalled. Randy Bullock added three points before the break, giving the Titans a 13-7 lead.
Jacksonville got the ball to open the third quarter, and the Titans dodged a bullet. Lawrence went right down the field in four minutes, getting the Jaguars in position to take the lead. However, on third down in the redzone, Lawrence misfired. A wide open Zay Jones was left empty-handed, as Lawrence sailed the pass long. Doug Peterson opted for the three, bringing us to a 13-10 game.
Dobbs answered with a field goal drive of his own to take it back to a six point game. The Titans forced a three and out on the next possession.
So, to recap, the shorthanded Titans — losers of six in a row — had the red hot Jaguars on the ropes. Tennessee had a chance to take real control of this one with any kind of points on the following drive. Instead, Dobbs threw a pick on third and long. A hold from Okonkwo killed this drive, and Dobbs forced a deep shot trying to make up for it.
To open the fourth quarter, Jacksonville added a field goal. Jeffery Simmons got big pressure on Lawrence to force the kick, and the Jaguars cut the lead down to 16-13.
Four straight three and outs — two from each side — marked the start of the fourth quarter. A field position game was playing out in front of our eyes, and the Titans’ three point advantage was big as a the clock ticked away.
Jonathan Ward moved the sticks on a checkdown from Dobbs, keeping that clock rolling with under seven minutes to play. Henry picked up another chunk to push towards midfield. The Titans were finally able to bleed some clock, taking us all the way down under three minutes to play.
Faced with a huge 3rd and 6, the unthinkable happened. Dobbs was hit, the ball went forward, and it was ruled a fumble. The NFL confirmed the call quickly — nothing to see here — and the Jaguars had their first lead of the night.
Was it a fumble? Maybe. But you can’t tell me the NFL went through a proper review here.
JAGS FOR THE LEAD! pic.twitter.com/ZX4qZUWeZz— The Comeback (@thecomeback) January 8, 2023
Bing bang boom, Dobbs now had a 20-16 hole to dig out of with just over two minutes to play. Considering what we had seen in the second half, a touchdown was a lot to ask of this offense.
Dobbs didn’t have an answer. 3rd and 12 turned into 4th and 12, and Dobbs threw short of the sticks on Tennessee’s final shot.
Final Score: Jacksonville 20, Tennessee 16.
So that’s that, the season ends in Jacksonville tonight for the Tennessee Titans. An awful collapse — seven straight losses to be exact — take the Titans from a playoff lock to a locker room clean out day tomorrow.
Even with all the injuries, the Titans had a chance to win this game late. But one key play ended those hopes, and that play will be talked about quite a bit tonight.
One silver lining? The Titans are currently on track to pick 11th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, instead of picking in the 20s had they won this game. But still, this one stings.