From some of my game notes, with afterthoughts added.
After a nice tailgate where I met some new friends, I walked to LP Field for the game. I had inexplicably lost my tickets but was able to get a spare one from a nice lady. Pretty nice seats, 50-yard line, just above club level.
It was a beautiful December day with a temperature around 70° and a clear blue sky. The stands were full of fans, almost all of whom wore Titans garb. The only damper was the field still looked like crap between the hashmarks.
There was an early surprise as all three Titan running backs were active for the 45-man roster. Lingering injuries to Travis Henry and LenDale White were probably the reason. If Chris Brown was hurt, it could have been a tough row to hoe with a hampered Henry or White. As it turned out, Henry played the entire game while Brown sat on the bench. White got into the game for a few plays and caught one pass for nine yards.
Tennessee announced it had come to play on the first play from scrimmage. Pacman Jones came on a corner blitz and dropped Garrard with Travis LaBoy, each being credited with half a sack.
The Titans ran Henry three times for seven yards on their first possession, then punted. I was hoping the Titans would continue to pound the ball throughout the game and really take it to the Jags in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville is usually the most physical team on the schedule each year, although I’d put San Diego right up there with them this season.
LaBoy was called for roughing Garrard. Pacman jumped a Williams route and returned it 83 yards a few plays later in the series. When he made the pick and started down the sideline, the entire stadium erupted in roars. I don’t think anyone doubted he would score, even though several Jags had an angle on him.
Pac was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play for jumping on the goal post and sliding down it. Jeff Fisher argued unsuccessfully that it shouldn’t be called and even pointed out that Pacman had been called for it twice before but the flags were picked up on those occasions. The ref ruled that in his opinion, Pac had used the goal post as a prop and it was therefore a penalty. The league has now said the call was incorrect, but it would be a penalty in the future.
In between LaBoy’s penalty and Pacman’s TD, Fred Taylor ripped off a 35-yard run. He was headed for the goal line and later said he would have scored since Lamont Thompson was taking a bad angle on him. “Fragile Fred” then pulled up lame and limped out of bounds. You hate to see that happen to a good player and one who has the reputation of being a good guy. I hoped he would return to the game, but he didn’t.
The Titans missed two tackles on a third and eight, giving the Jags a cheap first down. We aren’t good enough to do that and win. Or shouldn’t be.
Garrard reminds me a lot of Steve McNair with his ability to avoid a pass rush. Eluding the rush, he scrambled around long enough to find Williams open at the 10. Two plays later, Jones-Drew scored straight up the gut. The drive was 67 yards in ten plays, lasting six minutes. I thought it would be a long afternoon and didn’t know how prophetic that would be.
First quarter stats later showed Jacksonville had possession for 11:39 of the first fifteen minutes and had 7 first downs to none for Tennessee.
#74 Williams was having a hard time with KVB, who had 1½ sacks on the day. Later Williams (or so I thought) did an absolute takedown on KVB, but looking at the PBP, it shows the penalty was called on #62 Norman. I think everyone in the stands saw it and it happened right in front of the ref, who made an easy call.
KVB and Randy Starks split a sack which ended the Jags drive, and they settled for a field goal. Credit the coverage for that sack. This makes two weeks in a row I’ve actually had something good to say about Starks.
On the next Jags drive, David Thornton made a good play on a Garrard scramble, holding him to two yards. Garrard found Williams again at the Titans 12, but Jeff Fisher called time out, giving the replay official extra time to review the play, which was reversed. Another long pass to Williams was incomplete and the Jags faced fourth down from the 35. Rather than try a 53-yard field goal, the Jags went for it and Garrard was sacked by Bulluck.
Young made one of those plays where you say, “No! Don’t!”, and then say, “Great play! Way to go!” on a pass into coverage. Somehow he threaded the proverbial needle and got the ball through to Bobby Wade. Another pass went to Pacman, who gained 14. He’s going to break one of those someday. David Stewart bailed out Young by recovering his fumble on a sack. The Titans made two of their only three first downs of the half on the drive, which ended with a missed 44-yard field goal attempt. After his 60-yarder against the Colts, I guess Bironas gets a free pass every now and then.
Tennessee improved its time of possession to five minutes in the quarter, up from three in the first quarter.
Long lines in the restroom and at the concession stand made me miss the second half kickoff, which Pacman returned 70 yards. Bironas would succeed on this field goal.
Jones-Drew got most of the work on the next drive, which was for 13 plays to the Titans 14-yard line. Cortland Finnegan picked up a Garrard fumble and showed his 4.33 speed in his 92-yard TD return. 17-10 Titans and the fans are going nuts.
With Taylor still out, Toefield spelled Jones-Drew on the next series for Jacksonville. Garrard tried a pass to his rookie TE Lewis that went straight to Chris Hope. I don’t know if it was a communication issue between Garrard and Lewis, or if Lewis simply gave up on his route, but the end result was an easy pick for Hope, which he ran down the far sideline for another TD.
The Titans have only run three plays and kicked a field goal, yet have outscored Jacksonville 17-zip in the quarter. 24-10 Titans. Time of possession is again a misleading stat, as the Jags controlled the ball for over 13 minutes in the third quarter.
Once again, a long, time-consuming drive by the Jags. The Titans’ defense is spending far too long on the field. This time it’s an eight-minute drive which goes all the way to the one-yard line, where they had second and goal and failed to get the ball in on three attempts.
On second down, it looked like Lewis made a great one-handed grab for a TD, but Fisher challenged the call and the ruling was reversed. MJD was stuffed on third down, and Garrard went to Matt Jones on fourth and goal. M. Jones is 6′ 6″ and has an eight-inch height advantage over P. Jones, but Pac used his 37″ vertical jump to break up the pass. Sixteen plays on the drive, 71 yards, and no points.
This stat astounded me. In the stretch after Bironas’ field goal until the Jags’ missed fourth and goal attempt, Jacksonville ran 35 plays from scrimmage to none for Tennessee. Twenty minutes were consumed off the clock, with no points to show for it.
The defense had to be very tired, playing 35 plays from scrimmage in a row. It was fruitless to try to keep track of the substitutions, but I even noticed KVB taking a few blows, which he almost never does. Tulloch had been in a long time for Sirmon.
Henry was able to punch the ball out from the two-yard line to the 18, and Young ran for another first down to the 29. Two plays later Vince scrambled, reversed his field and took a 20-yard sack. Not good, but the Titans did pick up the two first downs and took three minutes off the clock, giving the D a much-needed rest. Four minutes and change remain with the Jags trailing by two touches.
They finally score and probably wonder what took them so long. The two big plays were a pass to MJD and a scramble by Garrard. Garrard looked like he out-Vinced Vince on that play.
After an unsuccessful onsides kick, it’s Titans ball with a seven-point lead and two and a half minutes left. Young made a real bonehead play, even for a rookie QB, when he threw the ball on third down, stopping the clock on the incompletion. Jim Schwartz was beside himself on the sidelines. The Jags would get one last chance against his tired defense.
Fortunately, Vinny Fuller got his hands on a Garrard pass and Hill intercepted. He started returning it before wising up and falling down. Or maybe one of his teammates yelled something to wise him up.
What a game in a stretch of memorable games. The 21-point fourth quarter comeback against the Giants. A 60-yard field goal to beat the Colts. Vince’s overtime TD run in Houston. And now this one, which was similar to the Eagles game in the number of plays the defense was on the field. It was also similar to the first Texans game in the stats favoring the opposing team.
Tennessee had possession for only 15:38, versus 44:22 for Jacksonville. I heard that’s a new record for least time of possession by a winning team.
A few other noteworthy stats:
The Jags had 23 first downs, the Titans five.
Jacksonville was 10 of 19 on third-down conversions, Tennessee was 0 for 8.
The Jags had 396 net offensive yards, the Titans had only 98.
Jacksonville ran 82 plays, Tennessee ran 34.
Turnovers: Jacksonville 4, Titans 0
Final score: Titans 24, Jaguars 17
I wonder what the Titans will do for an encore.
From some of my game notes, with afterthoughts added.