On a ludicrously hot afternoon, the Jaguars were able to keep digging deep and slug out a win against the division rival Tennessee Titans under the unyielding late-summer Florida sun. The final score and even the statlines might suggest this game was fairly close, but Jacksonville took control of the game early and except for a few slip-ups, never looked like they would relinquish the lead.
Luke McCown looked comfortable, albeit conservative (most likely by the coaches’ design), and was able to make the plays he needed to get the win – including a very ballsy 26 yard ICBM strike to Mike Thomas on 3rd-and-8 that pretty much ended it for the Titans’ comeback attempts. From the Jaguars’ 22 yard line with less than two minutes to play, we badly needed a first down to keep the clock running and avoid giving the Tennessee the ball back with only a two point gap on the scoreboard and little distance to drive into kicker Rob Bironas’s field goal range. Most impressive about McCown’s leadership of the offense was that he did it mostly without the Jags’ primary weapons, Marcedes Lewis, who was out for the entire second half with muscle cramps, and Maurice Jones-Drew, who was being seriously limited by Del Rio, in an effort to preserve his surgically-repaired knee and ease him back into the rigors of a full 60 minutes of NFL-level bruising.
The Jaguars defense looked absolutely stellar, limiting Chris Johnson to 24 yards rushing and 25 receiving, and showing exactly what Del Rio, Mel Tucker, and the defensive leaders have been telling us to expect – players swarming to the ball, making good tackles, and penetrating the backfield to disrupt the opponent’s rhythm. There were a handful of mistakes, including a horribly blown play that looked like it belonged more in a backyard pickup game than a professional contest that resulted in an 80 yard touchdown for Kenny Britt. There were also some instances of poor discipline that resulted in minor penalties.
The Jaguars have a lot to work on this week, but the foundation for their regular season appears to be on much surer footing than many have predicted after a largely disappointing preseason and a shocking last-minute quarterback change. We’ll be back tomorrow with more in-depth analysis, but today was a good, hard-fought win and the Jaguars have a lot to be proud of tonight as they relax and recover, sheltered from the punishing heat.
Nice win, boys.
– Andrew Hofheimer