JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field Sunday
1.Running won't always be enough. This became clear as the second and third quarters progressed; really, it was a game-long theme. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles completed 20 of 34 passes for 223 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions, but his statistics were 7-of-18 for 57 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions deep into the third quarter when the Titans held a 30-3 lead. Bortles during one second- and third-quarter stretch completed 5 of 12 passes for 18 yards and two interceptions with the Titans turning a 3-3 tie into a 16-3 lead. Jaguars players and coaches talked afterward about penalties and turnovers – and it's fair to point out that both of Bortles' interceptions came on tipped passes – but an inability to create plays downfield in the passing game with the outcome undecided hurt, too.
2.This team can't afford penalties – or deficits. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette is the real deal. The Jaguars didn't run every play early Sunday, but they ran effectively with Fournette rushing for 33 yards on 10 first-half carries. The game felt close and manageable. But this isn't a team that is going to function well in long down-and-distance situations – or when trailing. Their two second-quarter turnovers came on second-and-16 and second-and-25 situations created by offensive penalties. Fournette rushed just four times in the second half – for 10 yards and a one-yard touchdown that made it 30-9, Titans. This offense can function when Fournette can run. But can it keep games close enough and downs-and-distances manageable enough to keep him involved? That's a major question moving forward.
3.It can't be just defense. This game wasn't on the defense; rather, the second half of Sunday's game seemed a clear case of a defense wearing down after keeping the team in the game for much of the first half. Players afterward dismissed this, but the game had that feel. The defense allowed the Titans just six points on three turnovers in the second and third quarters, and a second-quarter interception by linebacker Telvin Smith had the feel of the sort of inspired, turning-point play. But after the defense held the Titans to a post-interception field goal that kept the Titans lead at a manageable six points, the Jaguars' offense failed to produce a first down. A long punt return set up a 17-yard touchdown run by Titans running back Derrick Henry, and the Titans scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. They then kneeled out the clock on their final possession. A dismal finish for the defense, but also a finish that had a feel of a defense that had done all it could for two quarters before wearing out.
1. The Titans are the best team in the AFC South because of their quarterback. Now, their quarterback is aided greatly by two excellent offensive tackles who keep him on his feet, but the difference between the two teams on Sunday was Marcus Mariota. He's smooth in the pocket and precise with his passes. Blake Bortles had two batted-ball interceptions - the one in the third quarter on Marqise Lee's back hip. He's imprecise and lacks the feel for the game that allows Mariota to slide in the pocket, always looking for a receiver and knowing where they will be. The Jaguars knew Bortles was going to have to make some throws and back the defense off the line of scrimmage, and they knew it was going to be very difficult without Allen Robinson. The Titans exposed an offense that needs it's defense and its' running game more than it would like to have admitted. They have to figure something out on the long flight to London because the Ravens, Jets and Steelers are up next with talented defenses who are going to make Blake beat them.
- The Jaguars killed themselves with turnovers and penalties. The penalties usually translated into really poor field position which took an offense that struggled without Allen Robinson and made their job even more difficult. The defense did a good job after change of possession, only allowing 6 points but the turnover at the end of the first half while the Jaguars were driving for what should have been a Jacksonville lead stripped momentum and left them wondering at the end of the second quarter. Allen Hurn's offensive pass interference penalty toward the end of the third quarter is a perfect example of a team that just couldn't get out of its' own way but it was hardly the only example in the second half.
- The Sacksonville thing was overplayed last week. The Texans are one of the NFL's worst offensive lines and the Titans have one of the game's best. The Jaguars applied pressure at times but couldn't get to Mariota consistently. Even great cornerbacks can't hold up forever. Where were Dante Fowler, Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell this week?