Jaguars 16, Titans 14

Maurice Jones-Drew stood on the sideline and watched teammates
Deji Karim and Montell Owens share carries down the stretch.

It wasn’t the view Jones-Drew wanted, certainly not the one he
expected.

Jones-Drew got the message, though. Loud and clear. The
Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be cautious with their star
player, even if it means upsetting the 5-foot-7, 210-pound bruising
running back.

Jones-Drew ran for 97 yards and a touchdown in his return from
knee surgery, and the Jaguars took advantage of a fast start and
some clutch plays late to beat the Tennessee Titans 16-14 in the
season opener Sunday.

The victory prompted warm and fuzzy feelings in the locker room
– for everyone except Jones-Drew.

”He wasn’t happy,” coach Jack Del Rio said. ”He ended up
carrying the ball 24 times, which is OK. We got up early in the
second half and he already had 21 carries. I’m not wild about the
prospect of him taking it 35 times in the opener, so that was my
call. We had talked about a play-count for him.

”He’s so competitive and he’s not happy about it. But that’s
going to happen as we monitor and try to keep him to a certain
number of reps as we go throughout this season. Hopefully he can
channel that energy in a positive way for us. It’s not about any
one person here. We want to utilize our best players. It’s about
the Jacksonville Jaguars winning football games.”

Jones-Drew had a 21-yard touchdown run on the team’s opening
possession and even carried the ball on six consecutive plays late
in the third quarter.

But coaches turned to Karim for much of the final 17 minutes.
Karim ran 14 times for 33 yards, a 2.4 yards-per-carry average that
had Jones-Drew itching to get back on the field.

”I feel like I could have played more,” said Jones-Drew, who
had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January. ”Last year I
played on one leg. Now I have two. … That was the coach’s
decision. They made it and I had to abide by it. We talked about it
and they know I’m very unhappy about that.

”Every player on this team wants to play and I felt like I had
more in the tank, more to give to the game, to my teammates and I
just couldn’t give it to them because I was on the sideline.”

Jacksonville’s game plan was to run the football early and
often. Not only is it what the Jaguars do best, but quarterback
Luke McCown was starting his first game in four years and Tennessee
was playing without defensive ends Jason Jones and Derrick
Morgan.

The Jaguars ran 47 times for 163 yards. They dominated most of
the first three quarters, shutting down Titans running back Chris
Johnson, forcing seven punts and applying steady pressure on Matt
Hasselbeck.

Johnson, who joined the team a little more than a week ago
following a holdout, was pretty much a non-factor. He ran nine
times for 24 yards and caught six passes for 25 yards.

The Jaguars were up 13-0 and could have enjoyed a bigger lead if
not for having to settle for field goals. Tennessee made it close
with a pair of second-half touchdown passes from Hasselbeck to
Kenny Britt.

”They came out of the box with the crowd and the enthusiasm and
they got points on the board and we didn’t,” new Titans coach Mike
Munchak said. ”We were flat early and there’s no reason for
that.”

The Titans finally got things going late. They made it 16-14 on
Britt’s second score.

Jacksonville did just enough to hold on. Mike Thomas made a
leaping grab on McCown’s third-down pass over the middle. The
26-yard gain helped Jacksonville take time off the clock. The
Jaguars ended up punting, but they pinned Tennessee at the 3-yard
line. The Titans still had a shot, but Dwight Lowery intercepted
Hasselbeck’s deep pass in the closing seconds.

”The smarter play probably would have been to hit Chris and see
what he could do and hopefully spike it and give our field goal
team a chance,” Hasselbeck said. ”I’m sure the coaches will come
up with some positives, but right now it’s hard not to focus on the
negatives.”