Titans 33, Jaguars 30: Game Balls

John Shipley

After a wild four quarters that saw the Jacksonville Jaguars fight back into the game following a double-digit deficit, the Jaguars took their first loss of the season, falling 33-30 to the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. 

The loss drops the Jaguars to 1-1 and is the result of self-inflicted mistakes in all three phases of the game. But even with the tough loss, which came down to the wire in heart-breaking fashion for Jacksonville, there are still a few performances worth highlighting.

So, which Jaguars earn game balls from us for today's performance? We examine below. 

Offense

Shipley: While a few different players on offense had good games on Sunday, I am going to go a bit unorthodox and give this offensive game ball to offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Jacksonville has typically struggled vs. the Titans' physical and versatile defense in the past, but Gruden called a terrific game and helped the Jaguars move the ball efficiently for four quarters. There weren't really any instances in which the Jaguars' offense looked like it was playing catchup or weren't attacking 

For comparison, the Jaguars have scored 57 points through two games this year. Last year, they had scored just 38. Jacksonville had nearly 500 yards of offense this week and displayed the ability to push the ball down the field and open up the passing game after playing a conservative game last week. Gruden also had a perfect play-call on a wheel route to Chris Thompson in the red zone. All in all, it was a good day by Jacksonville's play-caller. 

Hill: Gardner Minshew threw to 10 different receivers (eight with receptions) and four different Jaguars acted as ball carriers. They spread the ball around well while scoring four touchdowns, so there are lots of options here and why Shipley understandably went with Gruden, who put them all into place to make it happen. 

But if I had to zero in on one standout star for the day, it’d have to be rookie running back James Robinson. The bowling ball back had 102 yards on 16 carries. That’s 6.4 yards a pop. Anything four yards or more is considered a positive carry and he made it look easy. His 39-yard run was his longest on the day, showcasing his burst and the speed that is belied by his power. It put the Jags into Titans territory and four plays later, Minshew found Keelan Cole to pull within one score.

Robinson–who had a 17-yard rushing touchdown earlier in the day—almost had the score for that drive as well. On a 2nd and goal, Robinson bounced outside and had blockers, making it to the pylon before he stepped out of bounds. One of those blockers was DJ Chark. Receivers are supposed to block on running plays…but not all do. At least not whole-heartedly. But Pro-Bowl receiver Chark has found he loves blocking for James Robinson.

“As long as he doing that, you know, we're going to be on our side blocking,” Chark told reporters after the game. 

Defense

Shipley: Myles Jack is playing the best football of his career despite having played just two games at weak side linebacker. One week after a terrific game against the Indianapolis Colts, Jack was all over the field against the Titans, coming up with several big run and pass stops in key situations. He nearly helped the Jaguars take the lead by preventing a screen pass on a big third down, an impressive play in which he was set to blitz but then read the screen and nearly intercepted the pass. 

Jack, who led the Jaguars with 11 tackles, was called for a late pass interference on Tennessee's game-winning drive, but it was a weak call at best. Instead, it should have been another huge third-down stop from Jacksonville's veteran outside linebacker. After two years of struggles at middle linebacker, Jack is looking like a playmaker for Jacksonville's defense once again. 

"They told me that it was a hold, that when the ball went in the air it turned into a defensive pass interference," head coach Doug Marrone said after the game. 

"I couldn't see early on in the route, and I had a bad view of it from where I was. But the back judge should have a great view of it.

Hill: Myles Jack played great and is thriving in his new position, and there has to be a tip of the hat to the defensive line for the work they did on Derrick Henry and the run game. But I’m going to go with CJ Henderson here. Yes, the same CJ Henderson who got batted away in the endzone by Corey Davis and gave up the touchdown (even though he got enough of a hand in there to bobble it that officials actually wanted to review the play). But the rookie 1st round pick also had six tackles on the day, including two on Derrick Henry and another on Henry as part of a gang tackle, which he doesn’t receive credit for on a stat sheet. Just like Chark’s willingness as a blocker is important, so too is a corner’s willingness as a tackler; especially a rookie corner, in the open field against Derrick Henry.

On one Henry run in particular, the NFL’s reigning leading rusher bounced outside and had nothing but green grass and Henderson in front of him. It should’ve been a walk in the park for Henry. And he did swat at Henderson enough to pick up 9-yards. But the Jaguars corner also stayed with him and wrestled him to the ground in a move that we’ve seen other defensive back’s shy away from.

One of the knocks on Henderson’s game coming into the NFL was his tackling or lack thereof. It was exaggerated at best and overblown at worst. But just to be safe, the rookie corner is continuing to prove he can adapt to the physicality of the NFL.

Special teams

Shipley: I simply can't pick anyone here because long snapper Ross Matiscik was the only person on special teams who didn't have a costly gaffe. Josh Lambo had the failed squib kick and missed PAT, while Logan Cooke shanked the final punt of the game. Add in Chris Claybrooks muffing a few different returns, and this was an all-around bad special teams performance.  

Hill: Do I have to pick anyone? Really? Ok, they’re telling me I have to pick someone. Lambo? He’s usually a good choice…oh wait, he had an uncharacteristically off day, what with the squib kick and missed point after that gave up four points in a three-point game. Chris Claybrooks? Oh wait, he muffed two punts that he was lucky rolled out of bounds instead of being recovered.

Fine, we’ll go with Logan Cooke, the punter. He only had to punt twice and netted 80 yards (average 40) with a long of 45. There were no touchbacks with one inside the 20. The Titans had no punt returns and Cooke—who also kicked off the game—made the tackle on the initial return. 

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