NASHVILLE, Tenn. – He spoke with a smile, just as he had done after eight previous Jaguars games this season.
This time, Gus Bradley maybe enjoyed the smile a bit more.
Because this time, it was a winning one.
Still, when Bradley talked in the wake of his first career NFL head coaching victory Sunday, he didn't speak about that milestone, and didn't even really talk much about the "victory" part of a 29-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville.
He talked about how the victory happened, and that's what Bradley liked.
"It was a great feeling in the locker room," Bradley said after the Jaguars held off a late Tennessee rally to win for the first time in nine regular-season games this season.
"I talked to the guys that coming out of the bye week that this was going to be a great opportunity to show improvement, and that's what we're after. We talked about how whether it's at home or on the road, we wanted to challenge ourselves to see improvement in certain areas and trust results will come.
"It's a great illustration to be able to go into the locker room and talk about these things."
The Jaguars led 13-0 and 20-7, then still led 22-13 after Tennessee guard Chance Warmack was called for holding in the end zone. That gave the Jaguars a nine-point lead with 7:44 remaining.
The Titans trimmed that lead to 22-20 with a 4-yard run by backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, then after Jaguars cornerback Will Blackmon returned a fumble for a touchdown with 2:32 remaining, Tennessee again cut the lead to two with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to tight end Delanie Walker.
Safety Johnathan Cyprien recovered an onside kick one play after Walker's touchdown to secure not only Bradley's first victory as a head coach, but David Caldwell's first victory as Jaguars general manager.
Bradley, Caldwell and Jaguars Owner Shad Khan were presented game balls after the victory.
"It does give me an opportunity to show great appreciation to our owner and our GM," Bradley said. "Obviously, it's a great feeling."
The Jaguars' defense forced four turnovers, including three in the first half while taking a 13-7 first-half lead. The Jaguars held the Titans to one first-quarter first down, and though Tennessee eventually outgained the Jaguars 362-214, Tennessee never led.
The Jaguars' defense, after allowing touchdowns on the first two possessions of the last three games before last week's bye week, did not allow a touchdown Sunday until the final drive of the first half.
"We pared things down," Bradley said. "We might have tried to do a little too much (defensively in recent weeks). You saw a defense that played faster (Sunday) and looked more confident. With that, we had some opportunities to get the ball. You live and learn. We'll build off this. We're starting to figure them out even more."
A BIG PLAY
Blackmon made a huge play Sunday, a game-changing play.
But as Blackmon saw it, if his 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter clinched the Jaguars' first victory of the season, a couple of plays moments earlier may have been just as big.
With 8:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, rookie linebacker LaRoy Reynolds downed a punt by Jaguars punter Bryan Anger at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Warmack was called for holding in the end zone for a safety that gave the Jaguars a 22-13 lead with 7:44 remaining.
Those two points eventually proved the difference.
Titans coaches challenged Reynolds' play, questioning if his foot had slid into the end zone. The officials' original ruling was upheld and the Titans took possession at the 1-yard line instead of the 20.
"I never doubted it," Reynolds said with a laugh. "It was close, but I picked my feet up. It went in our favor and definitely helped us."
Said Blackmon, "One of the biggest plays was the safety. That was probably the biggest play of the game."
Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny left the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury and did not return.
Wide receiver Stephen Burton also left the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury and did not return. He missed four games earlier this season with a concussion.
Guard Will Rackley missed the game with a concussion, having been made inactive shortly before the game. Guard Mike Brewster started in his place.
- Running back Maurice Jones-Drew: "The last eight weeks, we've put in a ton of hard work and didn't get the result we wanted. Today, we executed well. There are some areas we need to work on, but it was a total team effort. Now, guys know what it feels like to win. But we want to continue to build on this."
- Bradley: "We stayed true. We didn't say after the bye week, 'Let's change everything and approach it this way.' We did not do that. We stayed the course."
- Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri: "We played against a good team that has some good wins under their belt and we were able to beat them, so everybody's going to enjoy this team win. We'll watch the film tomorrow and get ready for the next game."
- Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks: "This was big just to show our improvement. We're a 0-8 team and Gus' attitude has always been the same. He hasn't changed. His message is still the same, that we're building a culture of getting better and continuing to compete. It's big to get this win because we did compete, we did get better and we did play at a high level. It's great. It plays into everything he teaches us and it's something we can build off of."
The Jaguars will host the Arizona Cardinals at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.