On “All Gold Everything” Thursday night, the Jacksonville Jaguars needed a big win against AFC South rivals the Tennessee Titans. And got it.
But damned if they didn’t have to work for it.
Marcus Mariota came out firing for the road squad, getting the Titans near the Jags’ 30 on the first drive, throwing darts, and getting Tennessee in range for a 47 yard FG from reliable veteran Ryan Succop.
Blake Bortles, down 3-0, went three and out and on his first drive.
The Jags tightened up on their second turn on defense, forcing a three and out themselves … and then, Bortles Kombat took over, with the QB slinging it to Ryan Walters for 31, and then Yeldon slashing through the defense for another 14.
As Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry might say, “Boom. Grace.”
Julius Thomas got to eat, with a catch and run that got Jacksonville into the red zone. Then, Yeldon inside the 15, as quarter number one reached its terminus, in the midst of a 10 play drive that the best coach in Jags history, Tom Coughlin, would have endorsed.
The drive stalled out seven seconds into the second frame, yet the game was tied.
Mariota came back strong, finding Delanie Walker for 29 at midfield. The drive stalled out; defensive holding brought it back to life. Giving Mariota a free possession would seem to be a mistake, but the Jags defense held the Titans to a second Succop field goal.
Then, a look at Bad Blake: on a QB sneak on third and inches near the Titans 40, Bortles bobbled the ball, setting up the Titans with the ball and a three-point lead.
From there, the teams traded punts, and the ALL Gold Everything crowd was becoming All Bored Everything, booing fitfully after yet another Jags’ punt at the 3 minute mark.
The Jags held, forced three and out, and got the ball back for an eighty six second drill in Titans’ territory. Would they finally open it up?
Indeed they did. Bortles chucked it to Allen Robinson for 38, putting it in the red zone, setting up yet another field goal, knotting the game at 6 at the half.
Bortles then pushed the ball down the field, a balanced offense on the first drive of the second half, finding Allen Robinson inside the ten, setting up three Denard Robinson runs [?!], and stalling out the drive with a chip shot field goal … and the first Jags’ lead of the night.
The Titans battled back, but not without body count. Scatback Dexter McCluster, on a nine yard swing pass, was flipped skyward by a crushing Donovin Darius style hit. And, in a pass in the back of the end zone, star tight end Delanie Walker speared a table propped up against the wall, in a play straight out of the Extreme Championship Wrestling follies.
It didn’t matter in the end. Mariota showed his chops, with a 23 yard run through the pylon camera, and the Titans went up by 4 with just over 5 minutes in the third, as boos rained down from the Bud Zone like it was Alvin Brown at Country Superfest.
The Jags couldn’t answer, punting the ball back to Mariota’s squad. And it started to look like Mike Mularkey might be in position to punish the Jaguars yet again, as the Titans moved the ball against the Jags … and Blake Bortles went to the locker room.
The last play of the third quarter: Titans tailback Antonio Andrews gashing the worn out Jags’ defense, and crossing midfield.
Bortles returned, mercifully, after a shanked Succop field goal attempt. And then, the chunk plays, including Bortles finding AR-15 for 28.
All was great; then the Bortles backbreaking pick in the red zone. And 13-9 felt like 33-9.
The crowd, meanwhile, went into Beat The Traffic exit formation. Which wouldn’t happen if they had an amphitheater.
The Jags needed something positive. And they got it, in the form of a Jared Odrick sack on third and 8.
And they couldn’t do anything with it.
On 3rd and 9, as the clock ticked toward six minutes, Bortles drowned in a sea of blue.
Surf was up; the Jags down. The road team, Titans; the homeboys, Lilliputians.
3rd and 7. 4:30 left. A pass play to Walker. Close to the stick, but not quite over the line.
3 inches away. And the Titans punted, giving the Cardiac Cats what had to be a ninth life.
Rashad Greene caught the ball in traffic, and ran it back, 63 yards, cutting through traffic, finally driven out of bounds just outside the 5 with 3:34 left.
And then Bortles finds Julius Thomas in the end zone, and the Jags took a 3 point lead.
Which must have sounded great on the car radios in traffic, as tens of thousands of people who left missed, in classic Jaguars fan style, the big comeback.
Mariota was left with 3:30 and 80 yards to go. One pass play to a tertiary tight end. A fumble. And Jacksonville Jaguars ball!
The Jags got 9 ¾ yards on 3 plays, and Jags’ Coach Gus Bradley, in accordance with the Bold Rush marketing campaign, kicked the damned field goal.
Up by 6; 2:19 to go; a Mariota two minute drill loomed.
And Mariota couldn’t get it done. Some short passes got the Titans near midfield, but the fundamental lack of talent he had to work with allowed the Jags to trade yardage for clock.
Mariota spiked the ball with 26 ticks left, near the Jags’ 40.
A throw to Harry Douglas; incomplete, leaving 22 seconds for Mariota.
A completion at the 23, in the middle of the field, and a spike stopped the clock with just five ticks.
One throw to the end zone. This was where it got real.
And Jacksonville called a timeout.
Bradley put seven defenders near the goal line … and Andre Branch, one of the rushers, scored a coverage sack, icing the game, and driving the Jags to 4-6, which seemed inconceivable at various points earlier in the season.
The Jags see Tennessee again in two weeks.