JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Sen’Derrick Marks slipped by Andy Levitre, grabbed Charlie Whitehurst around the legs and dragged him to the ground.
It was the most rewarding sack of Marks’ six-year career – literally.
Forget that it came against his former team. Forget that it came on the final play of the game. Forget that it helped Jacksonville beat the Tennessee Titans 21-13 on Thursday night.
It was the ultimate money move. Marks earned a $600,000 bonus for the takedown, which triggered a provision in his contract that rewards him for recording at least eight sacks this season. He now has 8 1/2.
It also was arguably the most compelling aspect of a relatively meaningless game between two of the AFC’s worst teams.
”Whoever wants to come out, we’re just going to go out and enjoy the night,” Marks said, inviting anyone and everyone to join what’s sure to be a late-night party in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars (3-12) won for the second time in four weeks and avoided getting swept by AFC South rival Tennessee (2-13) for the second time in 11 years. The Titans lost their ninth consecutive game.
Although Jacksonville probably erased any chance of landing the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, players and coaches didn’t care. They held a raucous locker room celebration that included coach Gus Bradley praising rookie quarterback Blake Bortles (a touchdown pass and 50 yards rushing on a sprained right foot), backup running back Jordan Todman (a 62-yard TD run in the fourth quarter), rookie linebacker Telvin Smith (15 tackles) and, of course, Marks.
”Sen’Derrick Marks just became a little richer,” Bradley said, drawing wild cheers.
Marks had some fun celebrating his big payday, too.
He rubbed his fingers together after the sack, mimicking the move Cleveland Browns Johnny Manziel made famous in college, and pointed to the press box in hopes of getting general manager Dave Caldwell’s attention. Caldwell told Marks in recent weeks that he would gladly write the hefty check if Marks notched his eighth sack.
Marks also ended up at the bottom of a wild pile of teammates near midfield.
”It was pretty awesome,” Marks said. ”Just the excitement of all the guys. Everybody’s excited about somebody else accomplishing something. It just shows the character of our team and the guys that we have. Nobody gets that check but me, but everybody’s excited for me. It’s just the commitment we all have to one another and the character of each guy in here.”
There may have been one other reason teammates were so happy.
”Oh, we’re going to spend some of that money,” Jaguars defensive end Red Bryant said.
Aside from Marks’ bonus, here are some things to know about Thursday night’s game:
ANOTHER FADE: The Titans blew another second-half lead. Four days after surrendering a late lead to the New York Jets, the Titans did it again in Jacksonville. They led 10-0 early and had a 179-16 advantage in yards. But they couldn’t hold on. ”It was more about mistakes that we made than anything else because when we did it right – as you can see by most of the first half – we played pretty good,” Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
BORTLES’ BEST: Bortles completed 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. His completions and yards were both season-lows. But he came up big on the ground, scrambling for first downs on two touchdown drives and showing that his injured foot was a non-factor. ”I really didn’t know how it was going to react, but it felt good,” he said.
ON-FIELD VIEW: Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton called plays from the sideline instead of the press box, the first time he’s done that all season. It worked early. ”Just a change-up,” Whisenhunt said. ”No reason. There was no logic behind it.”
SACK RECORD: Jacksonville gave up four sacks, giving the team 66 on the season and breaking the franchise record of 63 set in 2001. The Jaguars, who have two rookies, a second-year pro and a veteran journeyman starting on the offensive line, have allowed at least four sacks in six consecutive games.
PREGAME STATEMENT: Several Jaguars players, including receiver Cecil Shorts III and defensive end Ryan Davis, wore ”I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during warmups. The black shirts with white print were worn over long-sleeved warm-up gear on a cool night in Jacksonville. The slogan refers to Eric Garner, who died after a New York police officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes. A grand jury decided not to indict the officer. A video of the arrest showed Garner gasping, ”I can’t breathe.” Other NFL players and athletes have worn the shirts in recent weeks.