Titans have lots at stake on road against reeling Jaguars
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Tennessee Titans are on the verge of a record-tying turnaround and quite possibly the franchise's biggest game in years.
All they have to do is beat reeling Jacksonville on Saturday to make them a reality.
''We control our own destiny right now, and everybody's well aware of that,'' linebacker Derrick Morgan said. ''And we don't want to have any regrets looking back in two weeks, so we're going to be all in, as usual. We'll be ready.''
The Titans (8-6) have won three in a row to give them five more victories than they had last season. Another against the Jaguars (2-12) would tie them for the biggest one-year turnaround in team history. Tennessee also improved by six wins in 1967 (one win to seven) and 1974 (three wins to nine).
More importantly, a victory also would make next week's regular-season finale against Houston an AFC South title game, a winner-take-all affair that would be Tennessee's most significant matchup since losing in the divisional round of the 2008 playoffs.
''We're in a good position, a position we've earned and I think these guys understand,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. ''We have a really good locker room. We have a lot of good leaders in it. I think they understand where we're at and the message is still consistently being told to them: Avoid distractions and lock in for the Jaguars and the Jaguars alone.''
The Jaguars have all the distractions.
Coach Gus Bradley was awkwardly fired following last week's loss in Houston. Owner Shad Khan and general manager Dave Caldwell decided before the game to fire Bradley, win or lose. With Khan not in Houston, Caldwell delivered the news just before the team left for the airport.
Players, assistant coaches and staff members found out via social media and text messages. Bradley then joined them on the charter flight home, spending much of the trip saying thanks to everyone aboard.
''We were given an opportunity to play for a guy that's unbelievable, brought in an unbelievable culture unlike anywhere else,'' quarterback Blake Bortles said. ''It was awesome. We took advantage of it. We didn't do the things that we needed to do to keep that. Now, we'll have to figure out what's next.''
Doug Marrone was named the interim coach for the final two games. Marrone made no changes other than a few tweaks to practice and meeting schedules.
The big question now: How will the Jaguars respond? Having lost nine consecutive games, they could pack it in and get blown out like they did in the first meeting in Nashville or rally around Bradley and play inspired football for at least a few hours.
''It's our fault. It's my fault. It's everybody's fault,'' Bortles said. ''We played a part in this happening. Now, we have to live with the results and what happens next. For me and a lot of guys in the locker room, we're going to play as hard as we can for the Jaguars organization until they tell us not to anymore. I know there are a lot of guys in there that feel the same way regardless of who's coaching us.''
Here are some other things to know about the Titans and Jaguars:
HOME FINALE: The Jaguars are 0-6 at EverBank Field this season and need a victory to avoid losing every home game for the first time in the franchise's 22 years. The team's last home win came Dec. 13, 2015, against Indianapolis. The Jags have dropped seven in a row since. Although they technically beat the Colts in a ''home game'' in London in early October, players and coaches don't count that.
RUNNING TITANS: Tennessee ran very well against the Jaguars in the previous meeting. DeMarco Murray had 123 yards rushing and a touchdown, and rookie Derrick Henry added 60 yards and a score. Henry is coming off a two-TD performance and now will play his first game near his hometown of Yulee. ''A lot of people are coming,'' Henry said. ''Everyone has been talking about this game the whole season. It is finally here, so all my friends from back home are excited for it.''
REVOLVING DOOR: The Jaguars are down to their sixth left guard, a crazy scenario that has created talent and continuity issues along the offensive line. Backup center Tyler Shatley will start following a season-ending ankle injury to Jeremiah Poutasi and a clavicle injury to Josh Wells. Starter Luke Joeckel (knee) and backup Patrick Omameh (foot) are on injured reserve, and third-stringer Chris Reed (toe) remains sidelined.
MARIOTA TIME? Marcus Mariota has not thrown a TD pass in two straight games after throwing at least two in a franchise-record eight straight. Mariota has 25 TD passes, two shy of matching George Blanda for third most in a season in franchise history.
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