Jaguars stumble in 2nd half, fall back down to Earth with loss to Titans
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans are boring and bullish when they’re at their best.
And opponents bear the brunt of Tennessee’s bruising attack. Just ask the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were gouged for 179 yards rushing in a 37-16 drubbing Sunday.
Coach Mike Mularkey’s ground-and-pound approach took over the game in the second half, so much so that a backup running back, a fullback and even a tight end got in on the action.
Derrick Henry ran for a career-high 92 yards and a touchdown, tight end Delanie Walker and fullback Jalston Fowler also found the end zone, and the Titans looked a lot more like AFC South favorites against Jacksonville (1-1) than they did in their season opener.
If the Titans (1-1) keep running like this, they might even have a chance to do more than win what could be the NFL’s weakest division.
“It was huge for us,” right tackle Jack Conklin said. “It’s picking up where we left off last year. That’s the way we want to play. It’s smash-mouth football. We love when (the coaches) want to run, run, run the ball. That’s what we’re all about.”
Tennessee ranked third in the NFL in rushing last season, averaging 136.7 yards a game on the ground. The team expects to be even better in 2017, partly because of Henry’s continued development .
Mularkey’s old-school philosophy might not light up the scoreboard, but it gives Tennessee a chance to grind out wins. The Titans did both against Jacksonville, which was coming off an ideal opener at Houston.
“Those guys wanted to come out the second half and make a statement, and I think they did,” Mularkey said.
Henry’s 17-yard touchdown run broke the game open in the third quarter and came on a play the Titans installed Saturday night at the team hotel.
He managed 87 yards in the second half, most of them with starter DeMarco Murray standing on the sideline and wearing a baseball cap backward while nursing a tight hamstring.
He had a front-row seat for Henry’s handiwork.
The Titans gained 121 yards on the ground in the final 30 minutes. Henry had most of those, including the game’s first touchdown. It turned a six-point game into a double-digit lead and started an onslaught of points for the visitors.
“He came in and had a big run, a really big run,” Mularkey said. “We actually didn’t put the play in until Saturday night, when we had a look at another thing. We never practiced it, and those guys blocked it up front like we wanted. It was a great run. … He came in and did what he was supposed to do. He ran the ball well.”
Here are some other things to know about the Titans and Jaguars:
Marcus Mariota returned to the place where he broke his right leg last December and completed 15 of 27 passes for 215 yards. He had a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith in the final quarter.
“Last year, I was leaving here on crutches,” Mariota said. “To be able to walk out of here with the guys, huge divisional win, I’m going to enjoy it.”
Jacksonville’s home opener looked a lot like most of the team’s performances the previous five years: With little offense and countless mistakes.
Blake Bortles threw two interceptions, including one on a ball tipped at the line, and fumbled once. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown to Allen Hurns in garbage time.
Rookie Leonard Fournette scored for the second time in as many games, but this one came with the game out of reach. Tennessee led 30-3 before Fournette found the end zone. He finished with 40 yards on 14 carries.
“With the way we play, we can’t have any mistakes,” receiver Marqise Lee said. “It’s only the second game. You’ve still got 14. If you’re sitting here worried, then you’ve got a problem.”
It was the third straight lopsided score in the series. Jacksonville won 38-17 at home last year, two months after Tennessee won 36-22.
Henry called what Hurricane Irma did to his hometown — he’s from nearby Yulee — a “terrible tragedy” and vowed do “anything humanly possible” to help. The Jaguars wore “One Florida” stickers on their helmets, and defensive end Dante Fowler led the team onto the field carrying the state flag.