Jaguars observations: Blake Bortles mistake-free, RBs make noise in victory
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In a matchup of 2-12 teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars proved to be more resilient and less awful than the Tennessee Titans.
The Jaguars came back from a double-digit deficit at home for the second time in a month and held to win as Sen'Derrick Marks sacked Charlie Whitehurst on the final play of the game Thursday night.
Blake Bortles, who was listed as questionable with an injury to his right foot, threw for only 115 yards but played a mistake-free game. And Jordan Todman, who had been stuck behind Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart all season, broke loose on a 62-yard run for a much-needed insurance touchdown.
The 177 yards rushing by the Jaguars represented their second-highest total all year, topped only by the 185 yards they had in a win over the Cleveland Browns in October.
Here are five observations from the 21-13 victory:
1. Well, there goes that streak.
The Jaguars were one of the few teams in the NFL that not given up a touchdown all season on an opposing team's opening drive. But the Titans ended that with a 12-play, 84-yard march that culminated with an 8-yard pass from Whitehurst to running back Leon Washington.
Whitehurst completed all six of his passes for 71 yards as the Titans snapped a streak of 25 consecutive offensive drives without a touchdown.
At one point in the second quarter, Whitehurst had three completions of 20 or more yards -- two of which went to tight end Delanie Walker -- before the Jaguars had so much as 20 yards of total offense. What was even more aggravating to the Jaguars was that the Titans, who were ranked last in third-down conversion rate (29.1 percent), were successful on five of their first eight opportunities. And a 13-yard completion from Whitehurst to wide receiver Kendall Wright on third and 18 put them in position for Ryan Succop's 50-yard field goal to give them a 10-0 lead.
2. Offense comes alive.
After scoring only two offensive touchdowns since their loss Nov. 9 at London to the Dallas Cowboys, the Jaguars put together back-to-back 11-play drives to wipe out that deficit.
Bortles kept alive the first one with a 9-yard scramble on third and nine from the Titans 22. He finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis, who was matched up in single coverage on a defensive back five inches shorter than him in Daimion Stafford.
The Jaguars opened the second half by going 72 yards in a drive highlighted by Bortles' 34-yard completion to Marqise Lee and a trick play with wide receiver Cecil Shorts III completing a pass to Todman. Gerhart bulled over from a yard out to put the Jaguars head 14-10.
Gerhart's score was just the third TD by the Jaguars' offense in the third quarter all season.
3. On the other hand ...
The two sacks the Titans had of Bortles in the first half raised the total given up by the Jaguars this season to 64. That broke the franchise's record of 63 set in 2001.
On the first of those, Bortles was blindsided by linebacker Derrick Morgan and fumbled. Gerhart fell on the ball to prevent any further damage.
Bortles' first four completions were for a total of only 10 yards, including a third-down swing pass to Todman that resulted in a loss of 4. He was able to be more successful when he rolled out more often, and he showed no lingering effects of his foot injury on a couple of scrambles.
4. Rookies make impact on defense.
The first pressure the Jaguars generated on Whitehurst came in the form of a corner blitz by Aaron Colvin, who batted down the throw to force a third-and-long situation. Colvin also put a shoulder into Whitehurst on a scramble later in the first half.
End Chris Smith accounted for one of the three sacks of Whitehurst in the first half, while linebacker Telvin Smith stopped Washington for a loss on a third-and-1 play in the third quarter.
While not a rookie, Abry Jones made the first start of his career at a tackle spot usually held down by Roy Miller. A knee sprain made Miller one of the Jaguars' inactives.
5. The stands weren't as empty as you might think.
Considering the lackluster matchup, the turnout was no worse than the Jaguars' most recent home game two weeks ago. No official turnstile count was announced, and the stands had thinned out considerably by game's end. But the fans who stuck around until the final gun are to be commended for their loyalty.
Next up: Dec. 28 at Houston to end the season.