JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 20-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans in a 2022 Week 18 game at TIAA Bank Field Saturday
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer
- What an ending, what a night. The Jaguars won the AFC South title Saturday, and could there have been a more fitting finish? They won in improbable fashion, rallying with a defensive touchdown for their first lead in the final three minutes, but the Jaguars' 2022 in a very real sense was incredibly and wonderfully improbable. They won their final five games after a 2-6 start, erasing a three-and-half game Tennessee division lead to win the South by two games over the two-time defending AFC South champion Titans. They won Saturday by rallying from a 10-point first-half deficit, also fitting for a team that not only rallied from that midseason deficit but also rallied to win six times in the last nine games. The nickname "Cardiac" is perhaps overused in sports, but the 2022 Jaguars indeed were Cardiac Cats. They also were incredibly gutsy and Head Coach Doug Pederson did unreal work to change a culture from the mess that was the 2021 Jaguars under former Head Coach Urban Meyer to one that on Saturday produced the fourth division title in franchise history. Fitting, too: This victory came on a night in which 70,050 packed TIAA Bank Field in the most raucous atmosphere the stadium has seen in at least five seasons – and maybe more. No one in attendance will soon forget the night. It feels like the beginning of an era in Duval, and that era couldn't have begun in a more fitting fashion.
- One for the defense. This is about giving credit where it's due. Big-time credit. The Jaguars' defense, maligned at times early this season, came through with a huge effort Saturday – a performance that capped a remarkable late-season run for that unit. "They won us the game tonight; they've been incredible these past couple of weeks," wide receiver Christian Kirk said, with quarterback Trevor Lawrence adding "The defense won us the game tonight. I think everybody saw that." The defense's most obvious contribution Saturday was outside linebacker Josh Allen's 37-yard scoop-and-score touchdown with 2:51 remaining, a play that came after strong safety Rayshawn Jenkins' sack forced the fumble. The defense held the Titans to one touchdown despite Tennessee controlling the clock much of the game. The defense allowed just one touchdown in the last three games, and Saturday marked the second time this season the unit registered the game-winning touchdown– with the first being, Jenkins' interception return for a touchdown that beat the Dallas Cowboys in overtime in Week 15. This defense struggled at times this season. Those struggles ended in December, and the unit on Saturday was why the Jaguars won their second AFC South title and their first since 2017.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…
- I had the other version of this story written when Fred Taylor and I got on the elevator to head to the field for the post-game show. I held out little hope with less than four minutes remaining, but when the elevator doors opened, we knew something had changed. The crowd's roar as Jenkins hit Dobbs was deafening. As Allen raced toward the goal line with the game-winning touchdown, it felt like TIAA Bank Field was shaking – and it's a solid concrete structure. With this team, you can never turn away. Whatever the deficit this season, the Jaguars never thought they wouldn't win. They're young and inexperienced, but believe they are good enough; for the last five weeks, in the most difficult stretch of the schedule, they were. Where do they go from here? It's a different game starting next week. But one thing you can count on: This team will fight to the end of every game.
- "Defense and special teams won this game for us and that's okay." Pederson wasn't happy with his offense Saturday, but he knows how difficult it is to win these winner-take-all games, so he was more than willing on Saturday night to focus on the overall team effort and outcome. The defense, as it has at times this season, struggled to make Dobbs uncomfortable, to keep Titans running back Derrick Henry in check and get the Titans off the field. But, as the unit has done routinely over the late-season five-game winning streak, it bowed up at critical moments and made big plays like Jenkins' sack-fumble and Allen's touchdown. The defense is not at the top of the NFL rankings and allowed more yards and points than it wanted this season, but it was terrific in perhaps the most critical category. The Jaguars had just nine takeaways in 2021 and finished 2022 with 27, an increase that helped them to an overall plus-five takeaway/giveaway margin and a 9-8 record. The Jaguars also scored four defensive touchdowns, including three in the last four games – and none bigger than the last. Good enough is good enough and the Jaguars defense is good enough this season.
View all Week 18 highlights HERE.
Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 2022 Regular Season Finale game at TIAA Bank Field in photos💥. 👀 Check out the top live shots.