JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 9-6 loss to the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1.The Jaguars aren't unbeaten anymore …The Jaguars entered Sunday 2-0 with a chance to improve to 3-0 for the first time in 14 seasons. Opportunity lost.
2. … and they're not in first place anymore, either.The Jaguars missed a chance for a two-game lead over Indianapolis and Tennessee in the AFC South. Instead, they're 2-1 and tied with Tennessee – but they're in second place because Tennessee holds the head-to-head advantage with a better record in the division. This was a big early-season swing – and another opportunity lost.
3.The home winning streak is over.The Jaguars' seven-game winning streak at TIAA Bank Field ended Sunday. That doesn't mean the Jaguars aren't good at home, but this team values the homefield advantage it has built. Now, the streak must start anew.
4.The Titans match up well with the Jaguars.No, the Jaguars aren't "cursed" by Tennessee, and Sunday wasn't a matter of a letdown after the Jaguars' victory the previous week over New England. The Jaguars are 14-8 since the start of the 2017 season with three losses to Tennessee. That's a trend that must be broken.
5.The Titans' defense gives the Jaguars offense problems.The Titans have a strong defensive front that limits the Jaguars' running game, and they pressure the quarterback well. They do a good job negating screen passes. They also do a good job keeping quarterback Blake Bortles in the pocket; as witnessed by linebacker Wesley Woodyard's early sack for a six-yard loss Sunday. They also have a secondary that tries to keep everything in front of them – and they're good at that, too. That's a lot of things the Titans do well against a lot of things the Jaguars like to do. The result: the Jaguars haven't scored a meaningful offensive touchdown in their last three meetings against the Titans.
6.The Jaguars really do miss Leonard Fournette …Remember? A week ago? When some people thought the Jaguars' offense was better without the second-year running back? It was nonsense then, and that was obvious Sunday. The Jaguars don't just miss Fournette's rushing yards; they miss the opportunities in the passing game that happen when defenses bunch up to stop him.
7. … and Corey Grant isn't a true replacement.The fourth-year running back is valuable to the offense in the right packages. With Fournette out with a hamstring and T.J. Yeldon playing through an ankle injury, Grant rushed for 11 yards on six carries Sunday.
8.Blake Bortles is still up and down …No, this isn't another Good-Blake-Bad-Blake paragraph. The reality is Bortles didn't play as well Sunday as he did against the Patriots the previous week. He didn't throw downfield enough; his longest completion was 19 yards and he never really tested the Titans secondary. Bortles has progressed significantly going through his reads, throwing to the open receiver and running when nothing's there. The Titans appeared to take away the deep throws Sunday and contain his scrambling. The result was a shaky offensive day.
9. … but Sunday was NOT all Bortles.The Jaguars' receivers made numerous one-on-one plays against New England. They had trouble getting open Sunday. The Titans' back seven effectively took away the crossing routes that worked so well the previous week, and this was a down day for a young receiving corps.
10.Penalties hurt.The Jaguars' eight penalties for 75 yards Sunday weren't tragic numbers. But a lowering-the-helmet-to-initiate-contact penalty on defensive tackle Malik Jackson negated what would have been the Jaguars' lone turnover and set up a Titans field goal. And the Jaguars were struggling enough offensively that all four of their offensive penalties felt major.
11.The defense? It's still good.Defensive players pointed at themselves Sunday for allowing 150 yards rushing and not getting off the field quickly enough on a couple of fourth-quarter drives. That's noble, but the Jaguars have allowed one touchdown this season while leading by less than 10 points. The unit is fine. And you're supposed to win in the NFL allowing nine points.
12.Calais Campbell is good – and tough.The Jaguars' veteran defensive end had two sacks Sunday. He was dominant despite playing through an ankle injury in the second half. Any thought that he might not maintain his All-Pro level from last season seems silly.
13.The lowering-the-head penalty is a tough call.Jackson was called for lowering the head to initiate contact when hitting Titans quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the first quarter Sunday, a play that negated what would have been a huge play for the Jaguars' defense. Instead of the Jaguars having possession after Dante Fowler Jr. returned a fumble to the Titans 34, the Titans drove for a field goal. The official appeared to make the correct call under the rule. At the same time, it was hard to know what Jackson could have done differently because Gabbert ducked and leaned forward as Jackson went for the hit.
14.Special teams giveth, and special teams taketh away.Criticize Head Coach Doug Marrone all you want for a failed fake punt that led to the Titans' first field goal, but Marrone has come up big numerous times on fake calls during his time as Jaguars coach. If you like Aggressive Marrone you must live with the consequences when aggression doesn't work. Besides, there was plenty of time to make up for an early field goal.