For the second week in a row, Randy Bullock missed a late kick. This time, it had no bearing on the outcome.
When his PAT missed to the right with 1:54 to play, the Tennessee Titans had taken all the drama out of their matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Stadium. Tennessee handled its business with a touchdown from the defense, a 17-point second quarter and three rushing touchdowns from Derrick Henry, among other things.
The result was a 37-19 victory that improved the Titans’ record to 3-2 and ensured they will remain alone in first place in the AFC South for at least one more week.
They led by 12 points or more for the final 24:48 so there were no all-or-nothing snaps such as Bullock’s potential game-tying field goal in overtime against the Jets a week earlier. As always though, there were plenty of inflection points.
These were moments that mattered.
The last stand: With 10:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, Chris Jackson was credited with a tackle on a fourth-and-goal from the 1. Running back Carlos Hyde lost three yards on the play, and the ball went to the Titans’ offense on downs.
It was fourth down only because a video review determined that Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence had been stopped short of the goal line. Officials on the field had ruled that Lawrence had scored on five-yard run, and if that had been the case it would have been a one-score game with the majority of the fourth quarter remaining. The Jaguars still had a chance to make it interesting, but Jackson read the play correctly, was the first to get to Hyde and eventually got him to the ground with help from four teammates.
It was Jackson’s only tackle of the contest.
The long run: James Robinson got loose for a 58-yard run on the second play of Jacksonville’s second possession, which got him off to a good start and put a fresh spin on what has been a recurring problem for Tennessee’s defense. The Jaguars scored a touchdown three plays later (Robinson ran it in from one yard out), a quick response to a disastrous opening drive.
Through the first four games, the Titans allowed more than their share of big plays in the passing game, many of which led the touchdowns. This was the longest run allowed by the defense, by far (the previous long was 25 yards), and it cost Tennessee an opportunity to take control of this thing early.
The Jaguars eventually rushed for 198 yards, the most by a Titans opponent this season. Robinson finished with a career-high 149 yards on just 18 carries, the third-best individual performance in the NFL this season. The only one who has rushed for more is Henry (182 at Seattle, 157 at N.Y. Jets).
Out again: With 12:42 to play in the third quarter, left guard Rodger Saffold was injured and required attention from the trainers. Team officials reported it was an issue with his shoulder, and he ultimately did not return.
The whole scene has become all too familiar this season. The only difference in this case was that Corey Levin stepped in instead of Aaron Brewer, who was placed on injured reserve late in the week. At 33 years old and in his 13th NFL season, Saffold just can’t seem to stay healthy. He has played every snap on offense just once in the first five games, and he has failed to finish three of the last four.
A shoulder has been the primary issue and was the reason he was listed on the injury report in Weeks 3 and 4. In the days before this game, he was in the concussion protocol for a time before he was cleared. No doubt, the Titans’ line is at its best when Saffold is a part, and it just does not seem as if he can hold up this season.
Welcome back: With 1:11 to play in the first quarter, Ryan Tannehill connected with wide receiver Marcus Johnson for a 10-yard gain on third-and-5 from the Jaguars’ 33. Three plays later, Henry scored on a 1-yard run as the teams traded touchdowns through much of the first half.
Johnson was one of the Titans’ most exciting performers of the offseason and training camp but opened the season on injured reserve. This was his first game of the season, and it came with three other wide receivers – Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Racey McMath – all sidelined by injury. Plus, at the time of that catch, A.J. Brown had been targeted four times but had just one reception for 10 yards, as his head-scratching low catch percentage continues.
At a time when the Titans need bodies and reliability at wide receiver, Johnson finished with a team-high 52 receiving yards on three catches.
Starting over: Cornerback Elijah Molden forced a fumble on the third play of the game when he hit tight end Dan Arnold almost immediately after a reception. Safety Kevin Byard fell on the ball, got up and returned the fumble 30 yards for a touchdown that gave the Titans a 7-0 lead before their offense even took the field.
Molden was the one member of the Titans’ 2021 draft class who figured to be a significant contributor right from the start of the season. He struggled when played more than half the defensive snaps in the opener and then saw limited playing time in the next two games. In Week 4 against the New York Jets, he played only on special teams.
If anyone needed something to provide a confidence boost and possibly turn around their season, it was Molden. By the end of the day Sunday, he had set a career-high with three tackles and – of course – had forced the first fumble of his career.