Titans breeze past Jaguars 36-22 to reach 4-4 for season
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans head into the second half of the season believing they’re right in the playoff mix now that they’ve already exceeded their win total from last year.
For Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars, the future is much less certain.
Marcus Mariota threw two touchdown passes and DeMarco Murray rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown Thursday night as the Titans breezed to a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars . The Titans led 27-0 at halftime and scored on six straight possessions during one stretch.
The Titans are 4-4 at the halfway point of the season, a major step forward for a franchise that went 2-14 in 2014 and 3-13 last year. They’ve won three of their last four and have a chance to play meaningful games down the stretch if they maintain this momentum.
“We’re just sick and tired of losing, man,” Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “Sick and tired of being a pushover in this division. I think we’ve had some games that were close and (we) shouldn’t even be .500. We should be over .500.”
The Jaguars aren’t feeling nearly as good about themselves.
A poor performance in a prime-time showcase will turn up the heat on Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, who is in his fourth season and owns a 14-41 record . The Jaguars (2-5) had to score two touchdowns in the last 3 1/2 minutes just to make the final margin respectable.
“The first half was inexcusable,” Bradley said. “We didn’t come out to play. I don’t know what the answer is. Do we play with some anxiety? Yeah, I can say I felt like we pressed too much, but some of the plays that weren’t being made had nothing to do with anxiety.
“I don’t know if it’s focus. We have a high standard, and we didn’t meet that standard.”
Here are some things to know about the Jaguars and Titans:
MURRAY, HENRY FORMING DYNAMIC DUO: The Titans acquired Murray and drafted 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry because they believed a physical running attack could help them turn things around. Those moves are paying off so far. Murray has rushed for 756 yards and already has exceeded the total from his disappointing 2015 season in Philadelphia. Henry rushed for 60 yards against the Jaguars and scored his first touchdown. Murray hurt a toe late in the first half but returned to the game.
MARIOTA AT HOME: The Titans’ quarterback had the best home performance of his career. Mariota had been just 2-8 at home since Tennessee drafted him No. 2 overall out of Oregon in 2015, and he had at least one turnover in each home game this season until Thursday night. Mariota was credited for a fumble on the opening drive for a 12-yard loss, but left guard Brian Schwenke recovered the ball. Mariota’s 148.1 passer rating was the second-highest of his career.
MARIOTA LENDS HELPING HAND: Mariota helped the Titans even when he wasn’t throwing or carrying the ball. On Murray’s 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Mariota attempted a downfield block to help clear the path to the end zone.
“He’s a team-first guy,” Murray said. “He doesn’t care about his stats or anything really. Obviously, he doesn’t care about his body either, but we’ve got to talk about that. It was a huge play by him. He’s our leader and to see him do that, it’s pretty special.”
Mariota downplayed his role in Murray’s touchdown. “He really did all the work,” Mariota said. “I just kind of got in the way.”
JAGUARS STRUGGLING TO RUN: The Jaguars came in ranked 30th in the NFL running the ball, and their struggles continued Thursday as they ran only 11 times for 48 yards.
Bortles ended up rushing for a team-high 22 yards. Chris Ivory had four carries for just 6 yards, and T.J. Yeldon ran three times for 20 yards.
BORTLES BOUNCES BACK (OR DOES HE?): Bradley said earlier this week that he “firmly, firmly” believes in his third-year quarterback. Bortles responded by throwing for 337 yards with three touchdowns, but most of those yards came with the Titans playing prevent defense.
In the first half, Bortles was just 8 of 16 for 64 yards.
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