The Tennessee Titans secured a spot in the playoffs and the AFC’s 5th seed with a 15-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For the second year in a row, the Tennessee Titans were victorious against a division rival. Last year, it was against the Houston Texans, in a game that was rendered meaningless because the Titans had lost and eliminated themselves from the playoffs a week before. This year, the win was against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it was incredibly meaningful.
The Titans’ victory earlier today secured the Titans’ spot in the postseason. This was no small feat: The Titans hadn’t made the playoffs since 2008, when Jeff Fisher’s squad went 13-3 and was bounced out of the postseason by rookie QB Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens. Speaking of Flacco and the Ravens, their loss today jolted the Titans into the AFC’s no. 5 seed, which means Tennessee will avoid the Jaguars for a third time and play the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium next Saturday afternoon.
Going into Sunday’s clash against the AFC South Champion Jaguars, the Titans had lost three straight games, all of them to NFC West teams. The losing streak made the Titans’ playoff chances somewhat murky, with a loss on Sunday making it near impossible for the Titans to make it in. Thankfully, the Titans took care of business themselves, and jumped up a seed in the process.
The Titans and Jaguars swapped punts for five-consecutive drives to start the game, before RB Derrick Henry caught a screen pass from QB Marcus Mariota, made a couple quick cuts and exploded upfield for a 66-yard touchdown.
The Jaguars responded with a field goal, but the Jaguars’ receivers would give the Titans a couple of belated Christmas presents before halftime. With two minutes left in the half, the Titans punted away, Jaguars returner Jaydon Mickens muffed the punt and the Titans recovered. The Titans settled for a field goal. On the first play of the Jaguars’ next possession, CB Adoree’ Jackson knocked the ball out of Keelan Cole’s hands and it was recovered by fellow rookie LB Jayon Brown. The Titans once again settled for a field goal to bring the score to 12-3 at halftime.
Ryan Succop drilled yet another field goal on the second offensive possession for the Titans in the second half, extending the lead to 12. After a pair of punts, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles back-footed a throw that was easily snatched out of the air by Titans S Kevin Byard. The seventh interception tied him with Detroit Lions CB Darius Slay for the league lead.
Chaos ensued on the Titans’ subsequent series when a miscommunication in the backfield between Mariota and Henry resulted in a fumble that was returned 67 yards for a touchdown by Jaguars DL Yannick Ngakoue.
Littered with a pair of questionable play calls, the Titans punted on their next two possessions, but so did the Jaguars, who could get nothing going against a swarming Titans defense.
With four minutes left and the ball in their hands, the Titans needed to melt clock and end the game. A four-yard Henry run was followed by a physical seven-yard Mariota run. Two short Henry runs set up a 3rd and 5 with 2:13 left in the game.
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Dropping back to pass, Mariota found no quick options and scrambled left out of the pocket. With all receivers covered, Mariota juked a bull-rushing Calais Campbell and then pulled out a never before seen stiff arm from hell that sent Jaguars S Barry Church into a different dimension. Mariota then slid in bounds after a gain of 13.
The Titans were forced to punt three plays later, but they left the Jaguars with just 18 seconds on the clock. On the first play, Bortles overshot his tight end and Byard was there to pick the ball off and seal the game with his league-best eighth interception (sounds Pro Bowl material to me).
The game would end 15-10, and the Titans would make the playoffs for the first time in nine years. The Titans also accomplished their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2007-2008. Regardless of how good or bad this team actually is, these are moments that are few and far between for many sports franchises. The Titans are relevant again, and they’ll have a chance to do damage in the playoffs, because anything can happen in the playoffs.