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Sexton-Oehser: Back and forth


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' 9-6 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 and forward to Sunday's game against the New York Jets at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville …

Oehser …

1.Reviewing the preview: When previewing Titans-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to maintain balance offensively, beware a wounded foe and be ready for a fight. The Jaguars struggled so much completely offensively that it was difficult to call them balanced or unbalanced; they were just bad much of the game. The foe indeed was dangerously wounded, with quarterback Marcus Mariota playing through an elbow issue to make enough big plays to get the Titans three field goals and keep the Jaguars' offense off the field at key points in the fourth quarter. There was little question the Jaguars matched the Titans' fight. Sunday's game was a brutally hot, four-quarter struggle – and the Jaguars' defense held Tennessee without a touchdown. But that fight wasn't enough to overcome one of the team's rougher offensive days in recent memory.

2.As I saw it: This was a major opportunity lost – and the storyline of the offensive struggles was obvious enough to overwhelm all else. The Jaguars had a chance to take a two-game lead in the AFC South; instead, they're tied with the Titans at 2-1 – and technically in second place because of the Titans' head-to-head victory Sunday. What went wrong offensively to make that happen? It honestly was difficult to pinpoint one area. Quarterback Blake Bortles got little help, but also had too many inaccurate passes – and didn't go downfield enough. Wide receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, each of whom played well the previous week against New England, struggled with route-running – and Cole had two costly drops. The running offense missed Leonard Fournette in his second game out with a hamstring issue and never seemed to gain control of the game despite a 4.6-yards-per carry average. Penalties hurt, too, and overall it was a shockingly difficult day for a unit that now hasn't scored a meaningful touchdown in the last three meetings against Tennessee.

3.Looking ahead, briefly: Up next for the Jaguars: the New York Jets. All NFL games are big, but Sunday's loss gives the Jets game a really big feel. A victory will give the Jaguars a 3-1 record and assure they enter the season's second quarter at least tied with Tennessee in the South. A loss would cast a dramatically different light on the first quarter. The Jets, remember, beat the Jaguars in Week 4 in New Jersey last season – a game in which the Jets' defense gave the Jaguars' offense real problems after an impressive Jaguars early drive. The Jets have a dangerous feel. While they have lost two consecutive games after a one-sided Week 1 victory over Detroit, they will enter Sunday 11 days removed from a disappointing Thursday loss to Cleveland in Week 3. That sort of time could benefit rookie Sam Darnold, who the Jets' organization believes is the quarterback of the future. This is one the Jaguars should win; still, like last week, it could start feeling dangerous if the offense struggles early.


1.Reviewing the preview: I thought we needed to see the Jaguars attack the Titans in the same fashion they went after the Patriots. Plenty of weapons showed up against New England and all made the plays asked of them. On Sunday, without Fournette no one did – or no one could thanks to the Titans' suffocating brand of defense. In particular, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook dropped catchable passes and ran poor routes leaving them shy of the markers. Give credit where it's due; the Titans were confident in their game plan and shut down a team clearly missing its best offensive player. As well as the defense played – when you give up three field goals in the NFL you expect to win – it failed to create takeaways and give a struggling offense a short field. They were good, but they weren't great. As they'll tell you, great wins.

2.As I saw it: The Titans' defensive game plan was well thought-out and executed perfectly. Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel saw the Jags twice last season as the defensive coordinator in Houston and had a good idea of how to stop them. Tennessee kept everything tight and clogged the lanes that were wide open against New England; the Titans dared Blake Bortles to throw deep, which he didn't do. It didn't help much that both the undrafted right guard (Chris Reed) and the highly-paid left guard (Andrew Norwell) struggled in pass protection against Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who wrecked the timing for Bortles in the pocket – especially in the third quarter when the game was heating up.

3.Looking forward, briefly: Don't let Darnold's status as a rookie lull you to sleep. He played very well in Detroit in Week 1; though he struggled against the Dolphins in Week 2 and threw a few interceptions against the Browns in Week 3 he's certainly capable of playing good football. The thing he has going for him is a very talented defense with tackle Leonard Williams up front, linebacker Darron Lee in the middle and safety Jamal Adams in the secondary; all possess game-changing abilities. If you think I'm just channeling my inner Lou Holtz, look at what rookie quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills, who aren't as talented as the Jets, did to a top Minnesota squad on Sunday in Minneapolis. The Jets will require the Jaguars' offense to achieve a much higher level of execution to win and it would help if the Jaguars defense could create some short fields. I wonder if Fournette can help …

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