NASHVILLE—They knew it was coming but they couldn't stop it, and that might tell us all we need to know about the 2009 Jaguars.
If they could, they would. Right?
Sunday, at LP Field, they couldn't. The Jaguars defense, once one of the fiercest units in the NFL, allowed Titans running back Chris Johnson to run around, through and over defenders en route to a record-setting performance.
Coach Jack Del Rio termed it "a very disappointing effort." They were the first words out of Del Rio's mouth when he stepped in front of the media following his team's 30-13 loss to the previously-winless Titans, the same Titans team the Jaguars similarly dismantled four weeks ago.
"Ultimate responsibility falls on me. I have to do a better job with the players. That effort completely catches me off guard. They didn't do a thing we didn't prepare for," Del Rio said, his words clearly piercing his pride.
Seven seasons ago, at a similar juncture in his rookie season as coach, Del Rio lambasted his defense for allowing the Titans to run out the clock with their running game. Del Rio vowed, promised to fans, it wouldn't happen again, and it didn't. The Jaguars went on to become the league's second-best run-defense that season.
Del Rio couldn't make that same promise this time because circumstances are different from what they were in 2003. Then, Del Rio had a defense with two cornerstone defensive tackles. He had the foundation for a defense for which the expectation was immediate improvement.
This is a different year and a different team. The defense is caught between the 4-3 they want to play and the 3-4 they have to play. They played Sunday without their best player, cornerback Rashean Mathis, and his absence devastated the Jaguars.
It's this reporter's opinion that Del Rio would like to promise that what happened against the Titans won't happen again this season, but he knows he can only promise that every effort will be made that it won't happen again.
"Allowed a team to cram it down our throats," he went on. "That's what they did. You know what kind of pride I take in defense and we didn't do much to slow them down," Del Rio said. "I'm sure we didn't hit anybody hard enough to hurt ourselves or them."
You want pain? You wanna know this one hurts? There's your admission of it. This is a low point.
Johnson rushed for 228 of the Titans' 305 yards. Both established records for Jaguars opponents.
Hey, it happens, but the worst part is the Jaguars knew it was coming. Everyone expected the Titans would make every effort to return to their smash-mouth, run-the-ball personality.
"Actually calling out the plays," Del Rio said of the Jaguars' awareness of the Titans' game plan and play-calling. "There was no trickery to it. We didn't shed blocks near the way you should to be good in this league."
There will be no more talk of playoffs. It was fun while it lasted and provided us with some bye-week entertainment, but the focus returns to finding a way to win a game here and there and somehow achieve respectability in what is clearly a rebuilding year.
"We didn't tackle well. I'm still looking for words," linebacker Justin Durant said. "We could call out some plays. They executed what they wanted to whenever they wanted to."