JACKSONVILLE – They came back … all the way back.
After they did that, the Jaguars did something far more important in the 2014 regular-season home finale:
They pulled away, then held on for a victory.
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, playing four days after sustaining a sprained right foot, led back-to-back touchdown drives midway through the game as the Jaguars rallied from a ten-point first-half deficit for a 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans in front of 61,202 at EverBank Field Thursday night.
Bortles passed four yards to tight end Marcedes Lewis 31 seconds before halftime and running back Toby Gerhart's 1-yard touchdown run gave the Jaguars a 14-10 lead with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter.
Running back Jordan Todman's 62-yard touchdown run with 9:13 remaining gave the Jaguars a 21-10 lead.
The Titans pulled to within eight with 6:06 remaining on a 23-yard field goal by Ryan Succop, but the Jaguars on the ensuing drive drained the clock to 1:09. A sack by defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks on the game's final play ended the Titans' comeback hopes.
The drives to end the first half and start the second came after the Jaguars had just two offensive touchdowns in their previous 46 drives. They entered Thursday with two touchdowns in their last four games.
The Jaguars turned the game's momentum late in the second quarter, then took the lead with an impressive drive at the start of the second half. Gerhart's 1-yard run capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive on which Bortles completed three of four passes for 57 yards, including a 34-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Marqise Lee.
Bortles completed 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Bortles added 50 yards rushing on five carries, and Gerhart rushed 12 times for 53 yards. Lee caught four passes for 65 yards.
Titans quarterback Charlie Whitehurst completed 24 of 35 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Tennessee outgained the Jaguars, 357-288.
The Titans led 10-7 at halftime, with the Jaguars starting the first half slow and finishing it fast.
The Titans drove for an easy touchdown on the game's opening drive, with Whitehurst completing 6 of 6 passes for 71 yards and an 8-yard touchdown to running back Leon Washington. That was the first time this season the Jaguars allowed a touchdown on the opposition's opening drive.
It was the first time in 18 games the Titans had scored on their first drive.
The Jaguars' defense – which for the most part had played well since a Week 10 bye week – improved after that, forcing punts on the next three possessions.
Succop's 50-yard field goal with 3:46 remaining in the half gave the Titans a 10-0 lead. Tennessee had outgained the Jaguars 179-16 at that point. The Jaguars had 16 total yards and a first down after their first four drives of the game.
The Jaguars then cut into the lead with one of their better drives of the season, moving 80 yards on 11 plays in 3:15.
Bortles completed six of eight passes for 51 yards on the drive, capping it with a four-yard touchdown pass into the left side of the end zone to Lewis. Lee's 18-yard reception with a 15-yard face mask penalty moved the ball to the Titans 23.
Gerhart rushed three times for 24 yards on the drive, and the half ended with the Titans leading 10-7. The Titans outgained the Jaguars 178-91 in the first half and had a nine-seven advantage in first downs.
This came at the end of the second quarter. The Jaguars' offense had struggled mightily since a Week 10 bye and struggled early Thursday. The Jaguars got back in the game with an 80-yard drive that ended with Bortles' four-yard touchdown pass to Lewis, and once they took the lead on the first drive of the third quarter they did not trail.
1.The Jaguars had three sacks in the first half, with defensive end Ryan Davis, defensive tackle Abry Jones and defensive end Chris Smith all registering one. Davis was particularly active in the first half, with his pressure forcing Whitehurst toward Smith on Smith's sack. …
2.Lee continued his late-season improvement, catching three passes for 31 yards in the first half. His tackle-breaking 18-yard pass led to a 15-yard facemask that was the key play on the Jaguars' touchdown drive late in the first half. …
3.The Jaguars' lone touchdown of the first half came after a big play by Bortles. On 3rd-and-9 from the Tennessee 22, Bortles escaped pressure and ran for a nine-yard gain and 1st-and-goal at the 13. His four-yard touchdown pass to Lewis came two plays later. …
Gerhart left the game in the fourth quarter with a rib contusion and did not return.
The Jaguars were without defensive tackle Roy Miller and defensive end Andre Branch, each of whom was made inactive 90 minutes before kickoff.
Miller missed with a sprained knee sustained last Sunday at Baltimore and Branch missed for a seventh time in eight games with a groin injury. Abry Jones made his first career start in place of Miller at nose tackle.