The Tennessee Titans’ winning formula this season had been spearheaded by the play of a dominating defense.
On Sunday, when that defensive play fell a notch, the Titans tumbled with it, falling 28-13 to the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field.
Against the Jaguars, the defense, missing defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, was unable to mask Tennessee’s many offensive woes, and even sprung a few leaks of its own against Jacksonville.
The Titans, who had opened the season with a 282-yard rushing effort in Jacksonville, did a complete about-face Sunday, yielding a season-high 166 yards on the ground to the Jags, while gaining just 62 yards themselves via the rush. To compound the problems, only 10 of those rushing yards came from running backs LenDale White and Chris Henry.
Left to rely on a passing game that had not produced a touchdown pass in five games, the Titans floundered in falling to 6-3.
“It wasn’t good out there. We didn’t play well at all,” guard Benji Olson said. “It’s frustrating, and we just couldn’t get anything going. … We’ve struggled all year, especially down in the red zone getting points. In previous weeks, the defense has kept us in it and caused turnovers and did things to help us out. Again today we just kind of struggled with turnovers, penalties and a missed block here or there, and if you don’t get in any kind of rhythm early in this game, it’s hard to come back and win.”
The Titans were in a hole almost from the get-go as a determined Jaguars offense, guided by backup quarterback Quinn Gray, marched downfield on its opening drive, using the rushing of running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor to push the Tennessee defense back on its heels and grind 7:31 off the clock. Jacksonville, which converted a key fourth-and-1 on the 13-play, 80-yard march, cashed in when Gray found Greg Jones on a 2-yard pass for a quick 7-0 lead.
Another clock-chewing drive in the second quarter of 13 plays, 53 yards and 7:06 in time elapsed pushed the margin to 14-0 in the second period, capped by Jones-Drew’s 8-yard run.
Jones-Drew finished with 101 yards, marking the first time in a full year the Titans had allowed a 100-yard rusher. Taylor added 45 yards, and in the process eclipsed the 10,000-yard barrier in his career on a first-half 15-yard run.
With the Titans in a 14-0 hole, and the running game going nowhere, Tennessee turned to its much-maligned passing game to decidedly mixed results.
Quarterback Vince Young completed 24 of 41 passes for a career-high 257 yards, but the effort was marred by two interceptions, four sacks and one lost fumble on a rush.
“We just didn’t get it done,” tight end Bo Scaife said. “We got ourselves in a bad situation from the jump. We’re not really like a comeback team. We’re supposed to be able to jump on people and finish it off. We just put ourselves in a bad situation."