NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A hard-to-explain Jaguars season ended in as fitting a fashion as imaginable Sunday afternoon. Strangely.
Very, very strangely.
The Jaguars (2-14) dominated for a while, then didn't, and the part they didn't dominate was enough to allow the Tennessee Titans (6-10) to rally from a seven-point deficit for 38-20 victory in front of an announced 69,143 Sunday afternoon in the 2012 regular-season finale at LP Field.
"I'm not sure how that one got out of control like it did, but it did," Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said afterward.
Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny called it "The strangest game I've ever been a part of in my entire life."
How strange? Consider:
The Jaguars dominated statistically, not just early, but throughout. They outgained the Titans, 375-221, including 280-102 in the first half. The Jaguars also had 21 first downs to 12 for Tennessee, but a bizarre stretch secured victory for the Titans.
In that stretch, the Titans scored 28 consecutive points in less than five minutes.
And they did so without their offense ever being on the field.
"We're thinking, 'We're going to drive and go up 21-7 at the half, then get the ball at the start of the second half,''' Posluszny said. "Things changed in a hurry. That was some of the most bizarre football I've ever been a part of."
The stretch began with a 79-yard interception return by Titans linebacker Zach Brown for a touchdown, a play that tied the game 14-14 with 1:48 remaining in the first half.
Henne threw three interceptions in the game, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
"I take all the credit for it," Henne said. "I'm the one with the ball in my hands and I'm the one making the decisions."
David Reynaud then returned back-to-back punts for touchdowns of 69 and 81 yards to give the Titans a 38-14 lead with 12:54 remaining in the third quarter. The first of those returns came with 33 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Titans took a 35-14 lead with Brown returning another interception 30 yards with 12:03 remaining.
Officially: Twenty-eight points, 4:45 elapsed.
"It's one thing to throw an interception, but to throw an interception for a touchdown – that's a huge points swing," Mularkey said. "You can't have turnovers that go against you that go for touchdowns. Statistically, you have no chance.
"It's a shame it got out of hand, because you think, 'We had control of that thing,'''
After Brown's second touchdown, the Jaguars had outgained the Titans 287-102 and trailed 35-14.
"It always comes down to turnovers," Jaguars center Brad Meester said. "You just can't hurt yourself like that. You just can't do that."
The Jaguars had opened the game in impressive fashion, with Henne (25 of 41 passing, 298 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions) leading the Jaguars to touchdowns on their first two possessions.
Henne threw a five-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Shipley to tie the game, 7-7, with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter. He then threw a 30-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon to give Jacksonville a 14-7 lead.
"We were moving the ball," Henne said. "We just didn't capitalize on some opportunities. The plays were out there to be made. We just didn't make them."
The loss pushed the Jaguars to 2-14, the worst record in franchise history.
It also sent the team into an offseason of uncertainty, with various media reports Sunday speculating on the futures of not only General Manager Gene Smith, but of Mularkey. Smith has been the Jaguars' general manager since 2009. Sunday's game ended Mularkey's first season as the team's head coach.
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan has yet to comment publicly on the situation.
"We're all disappointed with the outcome, because there has been an insurmountable amount of work," Mularkey said. "There's never been a letup in game-planning. There's never been a letup from any of these guys. That's a credit to the coaching staff, to Gene, to the players. You go on the field every Sunday with a chance to win the game. I've been on teams where that wasn't the case.
"The one thing about this group is they have laid it on the line, There has been no giveup. There has been no quit. I give them credit. They can walk out of this locker room with their head up knowing they did everything they could. That's all we asked them to do.
"We had a bunch of guys who did that this entire year."