JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Kainani Stevens offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 34-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans in a 2023 Week 11 game at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville Sunday
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…
- Just kick, just win … just what they needed. Boy, did this team need this. The Jaguars not only won Sunday, but they also beat a division team in dominant fashion – and they did so at home. This should quiet, for at least a couple of weeks, the angst over what entering Sunday was a 1-3 record this season in Jacksonville – and it should quiet a lot of other angst among observers following last week's one-sided home loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The victory "checked" a lot of necessary "boxes" – including quarterback Trevor Lawrence playing well, the offense committing no turnovers and the offense scoring three touchdowns in five red-zone possessions. The Jaguars early Sunday stayed with the NFL adage that any drive ending with a kick is a good possession, playing turnover-free in Titans territory while settling for two red-zone field goals and pushing to a 13-0 halftime lead. They then put the game out of reach with two impressive touchdown drives to start the second half. This was playoff football, winning football – and it was just what the Jaguars needed after a long week.
- Flexing defensively. This may not have been the Jaguars' defense's toughest test of the season. This version of the Titans' offensive line – and offense – is not the reliable, mauling, veteran-laded unit that helped that franchise control the AFC South for several seasons to start of the decade. But credit the Jaguars' defense for a strong effort when the team needed it Sunday. While Sunday's score was one-sided, the Jaguars' offense managed just one touchdown on three first-half red-zone possessions. Still, that production was enough for the Jaguars to take control of the game because the Jacksonville defense was limiting the Titans and preventing running back – and longtime Jaguars nemesis – Derrick Henry from coming anywhere close to setting the game's tempo. The Jaguars took full advantage of what appeared to be a strong matchup in their favor, shutting out the Titans until the final play of the third quarter. They also pushed the Titans out of field-goal range with a sack by outside linebacker Josh Allen and Andre Cisco in the second quarter. The Jaguars needed a strong effort by their defense Sunday. They got it in methodical fashion from a unit that has been a strength all season. "I don't think we've talked enough about the defense," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "They're the ones that have kept us in the majority of our football games this season. They did a nice job today."
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …
- Willpower. Pederson looked like he had had enough on the opening drive of the third quarter, telling the Jaguars' offense to remain on the field on fourth-and-four from the Titans 40-yard line. Lawrence scrambled and found running back D'Ernest Johnson, who took the short pass and raced 34 yards up the sideline to set up first and goal. On first-and-goal from the Titans six, Lawrence lost his footing and lost three yards as he ran left on a quarterback scramble. Clearly angry, he felt pressure on the next play and decided to race All-Pro defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons to the pylon. His diving attempt touched the end zone, and the Jaguars had a 20-0 lead minutes into the third quarter. Credit both men for their decision-making in that short span; they were simply tired of stopping and starting, which the offense did for most of the first half.
- Plus-two. Jaguars' safety Rayshawn Jenkins attacked the question of taking the ball away in his news conference this week, vigorously agreeing that that the Jaguars' defense was built to create takeaways and that the defense needed to get back to what it had done in leading the league with 18 before the bye week. Defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot and linebacker Foye Oluokun took the ball away from Titans quarterback Will Levis in the first quarter to set up a scoring drive, and long snapper Ross Matiscik forced a fumble that he recovered on a fourth quarter punt to set up another. The Jagiars now have 20 takeaways this season. Perhaps as importantly, they didn't turn the ball over offensively on Sunday after a four-turnover performance last week against the 49ers. You would like a plus-three or plus-four margin in this category and you win almost 99 percent of your games in that scenario. But you will certainly take plus-two and win 90 percent of the time any old Sunday.
Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...
- The band's back together. The return of wide receiver Zay Jones to the lineup didn't magically make everything perfect, but it definitely helped a lot. The Jags' offense looked capable and proficient against the Titans on Sunday. Lawrence was able to get the ball off quickly, but also wasn't afraid to use his legs. Lawrence rushed for two touchdowns and threw for two more. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley looked like the dynamic player he's capable of being with two touchdowns as well. It looked as if the Jaguars were playing with every piece to the puzzle for the first time in a while.
- More troubles for Tank. Issues for Jaguars rookie running back Tank Bigsby continued Sunday as he committed a costly penalty on special teams that allowed the Titans offense to stay on the field. Combine that with an impressive outing out of third string running back D'Ernest Johnson, and the Jaguars may need to continue Bigsby's development on the practice field. Bigbsy needs to work on ball security, blocking and situational awareness before he becomes a reliable option.