EditorsNote: Update 3: Changing pass deflection to Williamson
Titans use big second half to beat Jaguars
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With his offense needing a boost, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry took a handoff, cut up the field and ran over two Jacksonville Jaguars defenders on his way to the end zone.
About the only thing he didn’t do on the powerful run was blow a kiss to his hometown crowd.
Henry, who grew up in nearby Yulee, energized his team with a career-high 92 rushing yards as part of the Titans’ 37-16 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday in front of 61,709 restless fans at EverBank Field.
“Give the credit to the offensive line,” Henry said. “They’re the ones that opened the holes for us. The backs just have to hit the hole and be physical. As the game goes on, I feel I get more physical.”
Henry ran 14 times in the game, an increased role as starter DeMarco Murray dealt with a tight hamstring. And he certainly delivered.
The former Heisman Trophy winner’s 17-yard rushing touchdown gave the Titans a 16-3 lead with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter and seemed to awaken an offense that looked mostly sluggish during the first six quarters of the season.
The Titans (1-1) led 6-3 at halftime before scoring on their first five possessions of the second half, including four straight touchdowns, to bury the Jaguars (1-1) and take the life out of a crowd that started to boo in the third quarter and head for the exits early in the fourth.
After Henry’s run, tight end Delanie Walker scored on a 1-yard run, tight end Jonnu Smith scored on a 32-yard catch-and-run and fullback Jalston Fowler powered in from 3 yards out.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota finished the game an efficient 15 of 27 for 215 yards with one interception, a nice play made by Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith to read Mariota’s eyes and make a break on the ball.
The Jaguars got a 1-yard rushing touchdown from running back Leonard Fournette and a 7-yard touchdown reception by receiver Allen Hurns in the fourth quarter, long after the game had been decided.
“They really honed in on running the ball, and they were successful with it -- as hard as it is to say,” Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack said. “We have to put them in passing situations so the opportunity to get sacks can arise, but we’ve got to stop the run first.”
The formula for victory was much closer to what the Titans expected this season than what they showed during a season-opening 26-16 loss to Oakland. Their ground game wore down the Jaguars. And their defense was opportunistic. Against the Raiders, neither was the case.
The Titans forced turnovers on three straight possessions spanning parts of the second and third quarters, including an interception by defensive back Curtis Riley on a pass that was deflected near the line of scrimmage by linebacker Avery Williamson and an interception by safety Da‘Norris Searcy on a pass that was tipped by receiver Marqise Lee.
Outside linebacker Derrick Morgan also chased down Bortles and stripped him from behind.
The Titans turned those takeaways into six points on two field goals by kicker Ryan Succop, critical in what at that point was a game that seemed likely to be won by the first team that found the end zone.
“Any win is important,” Riley said. “We just try to come out and win every week. We keep working all week and try to get the win on Sunday.”
Bortles, who wasn’t sacked and did not have a turnover last week against the Texans, did not look sharp against the Titans. He finished 20 of 34 for 223 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, clearly missing top receiver Allen Robinson, who is out for the season with a knee injury. He was sacked twice in the game.
Fournette couldn’t find much room to run, and was limited to 40 yards on 14 carries.
Compounding those problems was that the Jaguars were flagged 10 times for 99 yards, a concern for a team that is coming off a 3-13 season and has little margin for error.
“They found a way to crack some holes and some trick stuff in the backfield,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We’ll grade the tape and figure out what happened. Same as always, never get too high after a win, never too low after a loss. Grade the tape and move on to next week.”
Succop converted field goals of 40, 41 and 26 for the Titans. Jason Myers connected on his only try of 43 yards.
But this was Henry’s day. Considering the recent devastation in the state of Florida after Hurricane Irma, he was especially proud of the performance.
“I had a ton of family and friends here,” he said. “This is my hometown and for what happened here, the terrible tragedy, I saw water everywhere downtown, some of my people, their houses got hit by trees. If I can donate and do anything humanly possible, I’ll do that.”
NOTES: The Jacksonville Jaguars joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins in wearing “ONE FLORIDA” helmet decals following the impact of Hurricane Irma. ... Jaguars QB Blake Bortles’ interception in the second quarter snapped a three-game streak without one dating back to last season. ... Tennessee Titans RB DeMarco Murray had nine carries for 25 yards, his second straight game with fewer than 50 rushing yards to start the season. ... Titans QB Marcus Mariota was sacked once by Jaguars LB Myles Jack, but was otherwise elusive, extending plays with his legs on several occasions. ... Jaguars WR Marqise Lee had 76 receiving yards on seven receptions.