"WE GOT EXPOSED"
As Mike Mularkey saw it, a difficult situation caught up with the Jaguars.
David Reynaud, a dangerous punt returner for the Titans, proved to be very much that during a 38-20 Tennessee victory Sunday in the 2012 regular-season finale. Reynaud returned two punts for touchdowns on back-to-back possessions late in the first half and early in the second.
The Jaguars never had allowed two punt returns for touchdowns in one game in their 18-year history.
Mularkey said part of the issue was rookie punter Bryan Anger punted the ball in the middle of the field on the punts, but added that the issue was mostly coverage.
The Jaguars, Mularkey said, were playing a slew of young, inexperienced players on punt coverage – partly as a result of many special teams regulars playing on defense because of injuries.
"We had some new faces on the punt team," Mularkey said. "We tried to do some things to make up for it, but no matter what we did, we couldn't compensate for the guys we didn't have. We had a few new players out there, and we got exposed."
Reynaud's first return – a 69-yarder – put the Titans ahead, 21-14, with :33 remaining in the first half. The second return came with 12:54 remaining in the third quarter and gave the Titans a 28-14 lead.
PLAY OF THE GAME
For the Jaguars, the plays were mostly bad – that's the reality when you have four returns against you go for touchdowns. If there was a highlight play for the Jaguars Sunday, it came on the first play of the second quarter. On the play, quarterback Chad Henne threw an accurate pass to wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who capped a solid second half of his rookie season by turning the play into a 30-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The play was the type of aggressive catch and run that gives Blackmon a chance to be a productive receiver, and maybe even a go-to guy. It also gave the Jaguars a 14-7 lead at a time they had dominated the game. Blackmon caught seven passes for 79 yards and finished the season with 64 receptions for 865 yards and five touchdowns.
Neither team brought much defensively early, with the Titans moving quickly on their first drive for a two-yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson. The Jaguars moved just as easily on the ensuing drive, with quarterback Henne passing five yards to wide receiver Jordan Shipley to make it 7-7 after a quarter.
The Jaguars controlled much of the quarter, taking a 14-7 lead when Henne threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Blackmon, but Tennessee took control late. First, linebacker Zach Brown returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown and Reynaud returned a punt on the ensuing possession 69 yards for a 21-14 Tennessee lead.
Reynaud opened the third quarter scoring with an 81-yard punt return that gave the Titans a 14-point lead. On the ensuing possession, Brown returned an interception 30 yards for a 35-14 lead. At that time, the Titans had scored 28 consecutive points without their offense being on the field.
The Titans got an early field goal by Rob Bironas to take a 38-14 lead, clinching the victory if it hadn't been clinched already.
"All I can say about those guys (the offensive line that allowed seven sacks Sunday) is they did the best they could. We haven't had the solid, same group of guys up there all year long. This week was no different. They (the Titans) did a good job. It wasn't just blitzes. It was losing battles of pass protecting. It is where we are."
QB CHAD HENNE SAYS
"It's all on us. Obviously, we need some help some places, but overall, we're a team. We had our chances to win games."
MLB PAUL POSLUSZNY SAYS
"I don't want that (major organizational change). I don't think anyone in this locker room does, but if it comes to that, we've earned it. We have not performed on the field."
STAT OF THE GAME
The Jaguars on Sunday scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game for a second consecutive week. On Sunday, they moved 76 yards on 10 plays and scored when Henne threw five yards to Shorts. A week ago, they scored on their opening drive against the Patriots. The Jaguars also scored a touchdown on their second possession, marking the first time since October 3, 2010, that the Jaguars have scored touchdowns on their first two possessions.
This one was obvious on Sunday. The Jaguars led 14-7 at the two-minute warning. Henne threw an interception that Brown easily caught and returned untouched for a touchdown. That started an unlikely run of 28 points in four possessions – all returns by the Titans. When it ended, the Titans had a 35-14 lead with 12:03 remaining in the third quarter.
The Jaguars on Sunday were without running back Montell Owens, a surprise late inactive. Owens, the starter in the previous three games, ran on the field before the game, but it was determined about 90 minutes before the game he couldn't play. The Jaguars made him a pregame inactive with a knee injury. "We just felt like the knee was not stable enough," Mularkey said.
The Jaguars finished the season 2-14
This was a rough end to a rough season. The Jaguars were impressive early, and as has been the case much of the season, failed to take advantage of a good start. The Jaguars led by seven and were driving at the two-minute warning of the first half. Chad Henne threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Brown on the next play. The Jaguars never recovered and in less than a half a quarter, the game was over with the Jaguars trailing 35-14. That has been a common refrain this season and the inability to overcome adversity in a very real sense becomes the defining point of a disappointing season.