The game ended as eight others in the last 11 between these two teams had; with the Titans having won. But there was a significant difference in this outcome. This time, the Jaguars won the physical battle.
Tennessee scored a 10-3 win over the visiting Jaguars today at The Coliseum. The Jaguars' victory was measured in Titans bumps and bruises.
"Physically, I think we can play with anybody. It's not about moral victories but, at the same time, we can see ourselves getting better," quarterback Byron Leftwich said.
Leftwich is a newcomer to this rivalry; this was just his second game. But he didn't need the veterans of these Jaguars-Titans wars to provide an account of history. The Titans have always been the hammer; the Jaguars have always been the nail. Everybody knows that.
It was that way on Oct. 26 when these two teams faced each other at Alltel Stadium. In their final act of physical superiority, the Titans held the ball for more than 11 minutes in a fourth-quarter drive, at a time when they were merely attempting to kill the clock.
There were no such drives today. Maybe, just maybe, the course of history was altered in the gloom of a gray, misty November afternoon in central Tennessee. This time, the Jaguars were the physically superior club.
Not even Jeff Fisher could deny that fact … at least not to himself. Though Fisher isn't the type who would make that kind of concession, he can't deny to himself what the Jags did to his club today.
The Jags' defense held the Titans to less than 100 yards rushing; their MVP-to-be quarterback to 168 passing yards and a 69.8 passer rating. It was, by far, Steve McNair's worst game of the season.
Oh, by the way, the 10 points the Jaguars allowed represented the Titans' second-lowest output of the season. But there's more … much more.
The physical nature of the Jaguars' play left Titans star defensive end Jevon Kearse with an injury reported to be a sprained left ankle. The greater concern for the Titans is that Kearse's ankle injury involves the same foot that has dogged Kearse for the past three seasons.
Along the way, several other Titans had to be helped off the field. It was somewhat of a body-bag game for the Titans, who improved their record to 8-2 and gained a game on the Kansas City Chiefs in the race for AFC postseason homefield advantage.
To that end, it was a good game for the Titans. They are a team headed for more important days in this season. Their season is only about winning games. They needed a win, and that's what they got.
The Jaguars needed a win, too. They need a win for the purpose of laying a foundation for their future, but teams in that situation don't always measure their wins by the final score. Almost as much as a scoreboard win, and maybe even more than a scoreboard win, the Jaguars needed to prove they could beat the Titans at the muscle game, and they did.
"Definitely; yep, I sure do," Fred Taylor said when asked if he believed the Jaguars scored that type of victory today. "I think we really got the better of the physical game. We laid it all out," Taylor added.
As the game wore on and the Titans were repeatedly turned away from the scoreboard while in scoring territory, you could sense the Jaguars growing in stature. And as each Titans player rose from the ground slowly or limped from the field, you could sense the days of the Titans bullying the Jaguars may be over.
On one occasion, Fisher walked to the center of the field to check on the condition of one of his injured players. You could almost sense that Fisher wished he hadn't started that whole "dirty play" controversy that dominated the pregame hype. You could almost sense that Fisher wished he had kept his mouth shut; that it was a mistake to have given the Jaguars a cause.
Is there any chance Fisher shot his mouth off once too many times? Is there any chance the Titans coach's sniping only served to awaken the Jaguars?
"I saw a lot of their players on the ground. I saw Jevon in a boot. We held our own. But I would've rather lost the physical battle and won the game," Jaguars cornerback Fernando Bryant said.
Bryant is in the final year of his Jaguars contract. He doesn't expect to be with the team next season. If he did, maybe he would have a better appreciation of what happened today.
What happened? The bully got knocked down. His bullying days may be over. Time will tell.
Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud was the Jaguars' ringleader. Fisher made the mistake of singling out Stroud last week; making sarcastic reference to Stroud's "test score," which suggested Stroud's Wonderlic test result lowered him on the Titans' draft board.
What? The guy scored higher than some quarterbacks.
Fisher made a pregame apology to Stroud, but the damage was done. Stroud was ready to play and his teammates were ready to play for him. And here's what happened: The Jaguars beat the Titans in nearly every meaningful statistical category except two, third-down efficiency and points scored.
It's a start.