JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Dwight Lowery #25 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates after an interception to seal the game with a 16-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans during their season opener at EverBank Field on September 11, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
1-0. It sounds good, for now. The Jaguars showed their stuff week 1 vs the Titans, sticking to a very specific game plan that seemed to be executed extremely well. New faces, new plays to be made. Truly, the defense played as a unit with each player stepping up a different play. Sitting in the stands, the whole game was extremely satisfying. I couldn't ask for a better Sunday, but let's put this win in perspective and break it down a little further:
The offensive game plan worked. Run. The. Ball. Typical Jaguars here-wear down the defense and stick to the run the whole game. 3 yard and 4 yard carries in the first quarter became 5 and 6 yard rushes in the fourth quarter. With a pitch count on Jones-Drew's carries, Deji Karim stepped up as the backup and kept gaining yards on the ground, as well as in the passing game, especially a crucial 3rd and long he converted after catching a short pass and working over 2 defenders to get the first. Montell Owens also got a few carries and seemed to get good gains every time as well. We knew Jones-Drew would play hard, and he got 24 carries for 97 yards. Just what the Jaguars need. Props to the offensive line for opening up some holes, although Guy Whimper still whiffs a bit too often as well as in pass protection.
The plan for Luke? Efficiency. No, I don't see Luke McCown as a game-manager. I see him as a passer. He was extremely efficient, which is what I expect when the Jaguars are running the ball well. A 70% completion percentage, 175 yards, and no touchdowns, but more importantly, no interceptions. He moved the ball well when he was called upon, and showed his grit in the fourth quarter with a beautiful throw down the seam to Mike Thomas in double coverage on 3rd down that allowed the Jaguars to run down most of the clock before putting it in the defense's hands. He nickle and dime'd his way down the field, using all the weapons he had. Luke did what he had to to win this game.
The Defense had a run-stopping mentality, but did the right things in pass defense as well. No matter what, holding an all-pro back to 9 carries for 24 yards is great. There me some excuses of Chris Johnson's holdout, lack of preseason, etc. but either way, the Jaguars did the dirty work. Daryl Smith was flying all over the field in run support and there was plenty of penetration by the defensive line on those pesky toss and stretch runs. I remember looking up at the stats in the stadium throughout the game, and realizing the Jaguars were making the Titans one-dimensional on offense, and made Hasselbeck try to do too much. The Titans went a putrid 4-11 on 3rd down the whole game, which seems a far cry from the Jaguars defense last year that would just find a way to keep themselves on the field.
A bit of caution, please. Yes, this was a great win against a division rival. A win is a win. But this is not the same Titans we'll see later this year. The Titans are built the same way as the Jaguars, and without a running game, they couldn't handle the pressure. There is certainly a lack of weapons around Hasselbeck, and the defense had quite a few injuries to pass-rushers. The Jets, though I thought they should have lost against the Cowboys were it not for Romo's puzzling throwing of the game straight to Darrelle Revis's hands, are not the Titans. This game will require a full effort at every position. Luke can't make mistakes against this defense. The defense must be disciplined, especially Courtney Greene, who feels the need to abandon his deep coverage all too often.
All-in-all, it was a great first week by the Jaguars; a truly emotional day for everyone and capped with a win. Week 2 vs the Jets, we'll see what this team is made of.
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