For the first time since October 17, the Jacksonville Jaguars walked off the field as a winner. They 38-17 drubbing of the Tennessee Titans broke a nine-game losing streak and made a winner of interim coach Doug Marrone in his first outing.
Marrone may have had an immediate impact on his quarterback, Blake Bortles, who had a spectacular day. The former Central Florida star threw for 325 yards and a touchdown without an interception.
A good portion of the criticism directed toward former coach Gus Bradley was the lack of improvement coming from Bortles this season. He was actually going downhill.
Whether a cloud was lifted or Bortles just had a good day, the Jaguars will think about that later. All that matters is they saw what they thought they would see from their quarterback on a regular basis.
Marrone also excited the fan base by opening up the offense. A connection between Bortles and wide receiver Marquise Lee for a touchdown should be a common occurrence.
Jacksonville’s first score was a 21-yard connection. In the fourth quarter with the Jags leading only 25-17, it was Lee hitting Bortles for a 20-yard score on a trick play that pushed the lead back to two scores again.
The Jaguars’ defense deserves their share of accolades as well. They harassed Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota all day, limiting him to just 99 yards passing before leaving with a severe leg injury in the second half.
They also held Tennessee to only 58 yards rushing. To cap off the afternoon, Jalen Ramsey picked off a Matt Cassel pass to racing 30 yards to the end zone with a pick-six. It was his first career touchdown.
Any team breaking a losing streak like the Jaguars ended should have them near the top of the sports center highlights. It is their luck that the Cleveland Browns won for the first time on Saturday against the San Diego Chargers.
Jacksonville finishes the regular season on New Years’ Day with a trip to Indianapolis to face the Colts.
Then, the search for a permanent coach will begin in earnest. Former coach Tom Coughlin is said to be interested.