Heading into the 2017 season, there were a lot of unknowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and very few people who predicted the success that Jacksonville had. However, there is usually one thing that Jaguars fans can count on: a season series split with the Tennessee Titans.
The Jags and Titans had split their two matchups every year from 2009 through 2016. However that wasn’t the case in 2017. Why?
So, as you may or may not know, I asked a question on Twitter to see what Jaguar fans wanted to read about here on Big Cat Country. And, I know I am being picky about writing these and am getting through them slowly, but I am a busy man, OK?
Anyway, I wasn’t going to write about this topic originally because I was pretty sure the person who posed this question was just a trolling Titans fan. But after I hit him back with some of my own snark, I realized this actually might be worth looking into.
I would, but I'm too busy re-watching the Jaguars' two playoff wins and reminiscing on how they went further into the postseason than the Titans.— Ryan O'Bleness (@ryanobleness) June 28, 2018
And by the way I'll give you a solid B+ for that comment love the creativity and originality— Michael Henry (@VFL_Henry) June 28, 2018
A solid B+? I thought that response was at least worth an A-, but I suppose that is a compliment from a Titans supporter.
With all of that banter aside, why couldn’t the Jaguars beat that team from Nashville? If all of those awful Jacksonville teams from 2011 through 2016 were able to muster a win against their rival, surely this team, that ended up being minutes away from a Super Bowl, should have been able to win one of the two contests as well.
But Tennessee seems to be a constant thorn in the side of successful Jacksonville teams. Just ask the 1999 squad.
Of course, the 2017 Titans were a more than solid team. Not only did this squad make the playoffs for the first time since 2008, it also beat a good Kansas City Chiefs team in comeback fashion.
Let’s review the two matchups last season:
Sept. 17: Tennessee Titans 37, Jacksonville Jaguars 16
This game was 6-3, Titans, at halftime, and 9-3 several minutes into the third quarter. The Titans broke it wide open with a 17-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry and then a one-yard touchdown run from Delanie Walker. Marcus Mariota then connected with Jonnu Smith for a 32-yard score. The Jaguars got a couple of garbage time scores in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.
Total Yards: Titans 390, Jaguars 310
Passing Yards: Titans 211, Jaguars 211
Rushing Yards: Titans 179, Jaguars 99
Turnovers: Titans 1, Jaguars 3
Problems for JAX: Turnovers, stopping the run and the running game on offense. The Jaguars were out-rushed by 80 yards and Leonard Fournette only averaged 2.9 per carry. Meanwhile Henry had 92 yards and a touchdown while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. DeMarco Murray added 25 yards on the ground, while Mariota tallied 24. Rushing defense was a big problem for Jacksonville early on in the season, and something the team was eventually able to shore up.
But the biggest issue was turnovers. Blake Bortles threw two interceptions and also fumbled the football. The Jaguars were able to intercept the ball back after the fumble, but Bortles then proceeded to turn the ball over once again on a pick, and the Titans took the lead right before halftime and never looked back. Bortles threw his second pick of the game in the second half. The defense eventually broke down and the game slipped away.
Dec. 31: Jacksonville Jaguars 10, Tennessee Titans 15
The Jaguars had already clinched a playoff berth before kickoff, and the Titans needed to win to get in. Jacksonville’s starters played in an effort to keep the rival team out of the playoffs, but the Titans still won. It was a very cold night and a low-scoring affair, and the Jags held Tennessee to just three third-down conversions on 16 attempts. However, thanks to a 66-yard screen pass for a touchdown, and three Ryan Succop field goals, Tennessee held on.
Total Yards: Jaguars 229, Titans 232
Passing Yards: Jaguars 146, Titans 116
Rushing Yards: Jaguars 83, Titans 116
Turnovers: Jaguars 4, Titans 1
Problems for JAX: Same old song and dance. The Jaguars had four turnovers and that did them in. Fournette had a more successful game with 136 total yards, but Jacksonville’s rushing attack as a whole wasn’t as good, as the team finished with 16 less total rushing yards than the first game. While total yardage was almost even between the two teams, the Jaguars just could not score. Yannick Ngakoue’s fumble return was the only touchdown for the Jags on the day.
The Jaguars did a good job of limiting Henry in this one, but Mariota ran wild for 60 yards from the quarterback position. Bortles threw two more interceptions in this game. Keelan Cole lost a fumble right before the end of the half. It was a rough game for Jaydon Mickens as a punt returner, who had one punt bounce off of him and get recovered by the Titans, and then muffed another that pinned the Jaguars back at their own five-yard line.
So, after reviewing this, it is really pretty simple why the Jaguars could not beat the Titans in 2017. Here are the five key reasons:
- Turnovers — Continually flipping field position and momentum in your opponent’s favor is a recipe for disaster.
- Inability to score on offense — I’m not sure if the Jags were aware on those days, but the team that puts up the most points wins.
- Failure to establish a running game — Putting the games on Bortles’ shoulders as a passer is not a winning formula.
- Unable to contain Tennessee’s rushing attack — While the Jaguars did a better job in the second game, they were out-rushed 295 to 182 in the two contests.
- Did I mention turnovers? Oh, right. Well worth mentioning again. The Jaguars had seven giveaways and just two takeaways in the two games.
And, of course, the Titans deserve credit where credit is due. Tennessee was the better team on those particular days.