JACKSONVILLE – There's some revenge on the Jaguars' minds this week.
If that word – revenge – is too strong or dramatic to describe a 2-12 team long since eliminated from the postseason, it's at least fair to say this:
The Jaguars sure want to play better Saturday than they did on an awful Thursday a couple of months back.
Remember? If you're reading this, you probably do. Because if you're reading this, you're a Jaguars fan – or at least a Jaguars follower of some sort.
And if that's true you remember Titans 36, Jaguars 22.
The Titans won so convincingly on October 27 in Nashville that it did more than move the Jaguars to 2-5. It made it feel like recovering was pretty much impossible. Greg Olson was fired as offensive coordinator two days later, and any of the giddiness that preceded the 2016 Jaguars season was over.
Gus Bradley's dismissal as head coach, which came this past Sunday, felt increasingly like a certainty after that, too.
So, is it even possible to get "revenge" for a loss so one-sided? No, probably not.
But the Jaguars certainly can play a lot better, and that was a major topic of discussion among players as they prepared for Christmas Eve at the 'Bank.
Revenge? Nah. But they sure don't want to get embarrassed again – a victory would be good, too.
Here are 10 things they must do to make that happen:
1.Stop the run …The Jaguars have done that pretty well a lot of the time this season and very well much of the time. They didn't do it all in Nashville in October. If you don't stop the Titans' running game, you lose.
2. … and that means both Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry.Yes, we mention this again because the Titans are that good running. They rank third in the NFL in rushing, and Murray ranks second in the NFL individually. And Derrick Henry – the Yulee native and 2015 Heisman Trophy winner – is getting more opportunities as the season goes on.
3.Make the Titans kick field goals.The Titans are very efficient offensively, and they make the most of their opportunities. They lead the league in touchdown red-zone percentages. They're probably going to move the ball, but if you make them kick field goals when they're close you have a chance.
4.Win it for Gus.Sure, it's corny – and yes, the idea certainly will elicit some eye rolls. But there was talk in the locker room this week of wanting to play well for Bradley. Hey, if it works …
5.Protect the ball.The Jaguars last week in Houston accomplished what for them this season has been a rare feat: they won the turnover margin. It didn't result in a victory, but it gave them a chance to win at the end. OK, so getting more take-aways than give-aways isn't the end-all. But it's sure hard for this team to win if it doesn't do it.
6.Watch Jalen Ramsey.OK, so this is cheating a bit because watching Jaguars rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey won't guarantee a victory. But it will mean you'll have an enjoyable Saturday. This guy is the real deal – as in, potential elite-player, all-time franchise-great "real deal." Is it early to say that about a rookie? Yeah. Is it wrong? Nah.
7.Eliminate the special teams errors.It feels silly at this point to keep mentioning this; that's how much the Jaguars' special teams have struggled. Still, this team has committed at least one major momentum-turning error on special teams the last nine games – and yes, that's the length of the current losing streak.
8.Get Marqise Lee the ball.Special teams, offense … whatever. The more the ball is in Lee's hands, the better the Jaguars' chances to score.
*9.Play inspired, stay focused. *Even with the motivation of playing better than they did in Nashville, motivation and focus are a concern. The season is long since over. The Jaguars have played with a lot of effort the last seven weeks with no results. Human nature would suggest eventually the team will let down. Throw in the holiday and the end of the season approaching … well, let's just say this is one where the Jaguars need to avoid a lot of things that historically have caused a lot of let downs.
10.Make plays in the fourth quarter.This is about Blake Bortles – and about the entire team. This team has had chances to win in the fourth quarter of the last seven games. It hasn't made plays in the fourth quarter nearly often enough. Some of that is on the quarterback. He's not alone. Plays must be made late in games. It's when games are decided in the NFL far more often than not.