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Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Titans 15, Jaguars 10

Posted Dec 31, 2017

Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday.

Oehser …

1. The Jaguars’ offense must be a lot better really fast. We’ll preface this by saying the playoffs are a different animal than the regular season – and that means a lot of circumstances will be different when the Jaguars play host to the Buffalo Bills in an AFC Wild Card Playoff at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. But make no mistake: the Jaguars can’t expect to win their first postseason game in a decade if they play offensively next weekend as they did against the Titans Sunday. The Jaguars registered just 13 first downs Sunday, quarterback Blake Bortles threw two interceptions and the NFL’s top-ranked running offense continued a sporadic finish to the regular season; while running back Leonard Fournette became the second rookie in franchise history and the first since Fred Taylor in 1998 to run for more than 1,000 yards, the Jaguars as a team Sunday rushed for just 83 yards and a 3.5-yards-per-carry average. If the Jaguars run effectively next weekend, they should advance. If not …

2. If there is credit to be given … it should go to the defense. The unit played with admirable energy and heart Sunday, allowing a 66-yard screen for a first-quarter touchdown from quarterback Marcus Mariota to running back Derrick Henry but otherwise helping the Jaguars stay in the game despite a struggling offense and mistake-prone special teams. The Jaguars twice at the end of the first half held the Titans to field goals despite the Titans having point-blank field position (the Jaguars 12 and 29) – and the defense held the Titans to 112 first-half yards despite trailing 12-3 at the half. The reality: the Jaguars had a semblance of hope Sunday deep into the game – and the play and heart of the defense that allowed just 232 total yards was the only reason. One focus next week: creating turnovers. The Jaguars forced just one Sunday, a 67-yard fumble return for a touchdown by defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.

3. Relax. This will repeat a theme we’ll hit elsewhere on the site this evening, but it bears repeating. The Jaguars’ season not only did not end with Sunday’s loss – and the reality that needs to be remembered is that the loss changes absolutely nothing. Repeat: it changes absolutely nothing. That must be noted, because while the Jaguars played their starters Sunday – and while they talked like a motivated team during the week – one of the great truths of the NFL is it’s very difficult for a visiting team that has clinched its playoff positioning to beat a team that is playing for a playoff berth. One team has a clear extramotivation while the other does not. The Jaguars lost Sunday and there were some things that were troubling about the loss. But they will play at home in front of a frenzied crowd next weekend – and the guess here is motivation and performance will not be an issue in those circumstances.

Sexton ...

1. The defense gave up the screen pass for a touchdown and allowed Marcus Mariota to escape for a 1st down right before the two minute warning, but other than that they look playoff-ready. Derrick Henry averaged 1.8 yards per carry, they sacked Marcus Mariota three times and scored a touchdown off a fumbled handoff to Henry. They look like a defense that can carry a team.

2. It would help if the Jags offense can get going after two sub-par outings. The running game in particular was hit or miss and while the protection was good for most of the game the fourth quarter sack by Brian Orakpo was a momentum-killer. Dropped passes, including one by rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook in the end zone, left me thinking about what could have been. A renewed running game would make Blake Bortles’ job much easier and get them back to the formula that created this already successful season.

3. Put this one away quickly – the playoffs are a different game altogether and a playoff game at home is even better...even if it's only 40 degrees it will feel 50 degrees warmer than it felt in Tennessee. The adrenaline that will flow in Jacksonville this week should be just what the Jaguars need to break their first losing streak of the season.

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