Preview: Jaguars, Blake Bortles take on Titans trying to prove Week 1 was no fluke
Time: 1 p.m.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars enjoyed a near-perfect opener.
Rookie Leonard Fournette ran the ball with authority behind a surprisingly stout offensive line. Blake Bortles played sack- and turnover-free football for just the second time in 45 career starts. The defense allowed 203 yards, forced four turnovers and had 10 sacks.
It was the team’s ideal identity, the smash-mouth style new coach Doug Marrone and decision maker Tom Coughlin spent the last eight months trying to build.
It also looked a lot like what the Tennessee Titans (0-1) have constructed under second-year coach Mike Mularkey.
When the AFC South rivals meet Sunday in Jacksonville, the Jaguars (1-0) will try to prove Week 1 was no fluke and the start of a season-long trend.
“It means a lot,” Fournette said. “At the end of the day, physical play is what our head coach wants from us. I believe we have the team, we have the players to do it each and every week. It’s a mindset to come out there and play physical.”
It’s exactly what the Jaguars did in a dominating 29-7 victory at Houston.
“I think we’re grasping the idea of not shooting ourselves in the foot and losing games before we learn how to win games,” veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “So if we go out there and just handle our business, we’re going to be in every game.”
Even though the Titans ran for 95 yards — 40 yards shy of what they averaged in 2016 — and gave up 26 points, they had no complaints about how physical they played in a 10-point home loss to Oakland. They were more concerned with finishing drives.
Tennessee was 1 for 3 in the red zone and missed a field goal.
“I thought we moved the ball well, did a good job of converting third downs, winning the point of attack,” quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “We just didn’t finish, and that’s obviously been something that we’ve addressed and we’ll get better at it.”
If not, the Titans could be 0-2 for the first time since 2012. A loss would leave them in an early hole in the division race.
“That’s how you win the division: You’ve got to beat the teams in it,” Mularkey said. “I think it’s six years that we’ve split with these guys. … At some point, that’s going to stop. Somebody’s going to have to win both of them to win the division.”
This might be Jacksonville’s most significant home game since 2010. It’s the first time since Dec. 26, 2010 that the Jaguars will play a home game with a record above .500. They haven’t been 2-0 since 2006.
“As a whole, we’re coming together,” Fournette said. “We’re not perfect. We still have to get assignment-sound, with everybody doing what they have to do, doing the right thing. It’s a week-by-week thing.”
Here are some other things to know about the Titans and Jaguars:
Bortles has completed 98 consecutive passes without an interception, the longest streak of his four-year career. His last pick came at Houston in Week 15, the final game of coach Gus Bradley’s tenure. Bortles didn’t throw an interception in two games with Marrone as the team’s interim coach in 2016 and was mistake-free in the opener.
MARIOTA, TAKE THREE
The Titans quarterback is 2-2 against the Jaguars, with both losses coming in Jacksonville. The No. 2 overall pick in 2015 has thrown six touchdowns with only one interception against the Jaguars, but five of those TDs have come at home in Nashville. For the Titans to have a chance at winning in Jacksonville for the first time since 2013, Mariota probably needs to do more.
Tennessee gave up 109 yards rushing to Oakland, with Marshawn Lynch grinding out yards late. That bruised the Titans’ pride after they ranked second in the NFL last season. Now they face Fournette. “He can make you look bad,” safety Da’Norris Searcy said. “He can make all the runs. He can make all the cuts. He’s very shifty to be that big, so you just got to come prepared and be ready to tackle.”
The Jaguars expect Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns to take on bigger roles with former Pro Bowler Allen Robinson out for the season with a torn knee ligament. Lee was healthy for the first time in his career in 2016 and caught 63 passes for 851 yards and three touchdowns. The Jaguars are counting on more now. So is Lee, who is in the final year of his rookie contract.