Bash and slash: Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman lead charge in Jaguars’ win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Toby Gerhart softened up the Tennessee Titans with body punches before Jordan Todman delivered the knockout blow for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With so much attention going into Thursday night being on the health and general well-being of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, it was the Jaguars’ running game that played more of a role in the 21-13 victory. Gerhart picked up 53 yards on 12 carries before leaving in the fourth quarter with a rib contusion, while Todman torched the NFL’s worst rush defense on a 62-yard touchdown with 9:13 remaining.

Though Todman proved to be a capable fill-in with his 109-yard game in a start against Buffalo last December, he has spent almost all season stuck behind Gerhart and Denard Robinson. He had a total of 63 yards on the ground through 14 games and didn’t have a carry through three quarters against the Titans.

But when he got the ball for the first time after the Jaguars’ defense came up with a fourth-down stand, he made the most of it.

"I saw an opportunity to cut back," Todman said, crediting the blocking of the offensive line and fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou. "I cut back twice, I believe, and tried to make a guy miss and break a tackle and try to get off to the races and then run as fast as I can."

That speed has been evident at times from him on kickoff returns. But until Todman put the Jaguars up 21-10, their longest run of the season had been a 41-yard gain by Robinson in a loss to the Miami Dolphins.

"He’s got speed," tackle Luke Joeckel said. "So we knew once he got into the open space, he could take off. That’s the greatest thing for an offensive lineman — just one play and done."

Gerhart had a season-high 54 yards on 13 carries Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. But the Jaguars were forced to rely on the passing of Bortles in a game where he wound up getting sacked eight times and the offense had to settle for four field goals from Josh Scobee.

They got off to a comparably shaky start against the Titans before three straight carries by Gerhart netted a pair of first downs. That drive ended with Bortles’ 4-yard touchdown pass to Marcedes Lewis that cut the Titans’ lead to 10-7 at halftime.

Jaguars vs. Titans

"The run game throughout the year has gotten better," Gerhart said. "And going into a short week after playing against a physical Ravens defense, to come in here and get after people is nice. We got downhill on them and moved the ball."

The Jaguars had problems running the ball in a 16-14 loss to the Titans earlier in the season but were able to finish with 177 yards on the ground in the win. Bortles, whose status was in question because of a foot injury, was even able to chip in with 50 yards on five carries.

"He’s a tough kid," Todman said. "We needed that, to have him come in and fight through it. We appreciate it."

Bortles threw for a career-low 115 yards and was sacked four times. So it was all the more important for the Jaguars to get Gerhart and Todman rolling behind a line starting two rookies.

"I think they’ve gotten better as the year has progressed," Gerhart said of the line. "And it was nice to finish this game with a solid rushing performance."

"We felt like this was a team we could run the ball against," Todman said. "The object is to be able get it established and go out there and do it. And with Toby running so hard — as you can see, he’s a house. He’s definitely going to bring the wood. And we obviously can’t do it without the offensive line."

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.