Titans beat Jaguars 15-10, end playoff drought with AFC spot
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans linebackers Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard had a little talk with Marcus Mariota, encouraging their quarterback to run whenever he had a chance.
Mariota did just that Sunday.
Mariota had his best game running since a broken right leg ended his season a year ago, and he helped the Titans end an eight-season playoff drought by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 15-10 Sunday to clinch the AFC’s first wild-card berth.
Orakpo called it an unbelievable feeling as the nine-year pro finally is headed to his first NFL postseason.
“I didn’t want to be on a Southwest flight back to Texas tomorrow wondering, ‘what if,’” Orakpo said.
The Titans (9-7) snapped a three-game skid needing a win or losses elsewhere to advance. When Cincinnati beat Baltimore 31-27, that locked up the No. 5 seed for Tennessee and a wild-card game Saturday at Kansas City.
Mariota ran a season-high 10 times for 60 yards, the biggest a 13-yard scramble on third-and-5 at the 2:00 mark that included a big stiff arm. Mariota also threw for 134 yards, including a TD pass on a screen that Derrick Henry took 66 yards for a TD.
“When I looked into his eyes, he had those Oregon eyes like he did back in college, running around making plays,” Orakpo said of Mariota. “I think me and Wood got in his head a little bit — in a positive way. We talked to him like, ‘If you see something, take off, man.’ We had a nice little talk, and it just paid off the way he was digging down deep.”
The Titans didn’t call many designed runs for Mariota.
“For them to bring me aside and talk to me about just playing my game meant a lot to me,” Mariota said of Orakpo and Woodyard.
Ryan Succop also kicked three field goals.
The Titans sacked Blake Bortles twice and forced four turnovers, two interceptions by Kevin Byard.
The Jaguars (10-6) clinched their first AFC South title a week ago when Tennessee lost to San Francisco. Coach Doug Marrone promised they came to win. Only left tackle Cam Robinson and wide receiver Marqise Lee were scratched — both were on the injury report this week.
Yet they head into the postseason having lost two straight in their first such skid this season.
“The good part about this is we’re going home,” Marrone said. “Whenever you have adversity in life and what you do, there’s always that comfort of going home. We’ve earned the opportunity to play a home playoff game.”
The Jaguars had a chance to win after Mariota lost his first fumble this season in the fourth quarter. Henry ran the wrong direction and collided with Mariota on a handoff, popping the ball in the air. Yannick Ngakoue picked it up and ran 67 yards for a TD, pulling the Jaguars within 15-10 with 10:48 left.
But Byard got his second pick with 10 seconds remaining to seal the win.
The Titans led 6-3 when they forced two turnovers 42 seconds apart just before halftime.
Jaguars returner Jaydon Mickens signaled for a fair catch, then went to block as the ball came down close to him, and Phillip Supernaw recovered the bobble for Tennessee. On the next drive, Titans rookie cornerback Adoree Jackson punched the ball loose from Keelan Cole and Jayon Brown recovered.
Succop capped each drive with a field goal, his second a 39-yarder as time expired for a 12-3 halftime lead.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner got his fourth start and first this season with DeMarco Murray scratched with an injured right knee. Henry struggled in the first quarter and was tackled for too many losses. But Henry gave the Titans’ their lone TD when he took a screen on the second play of the second quarter for a 6-0 lead.
It was Henry’s first TD catch of his career. It was his third TD of 60 yards or longer this season, second in the NFL to Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill who has five.
After the game, Jaguars linebackers Donald Payne and Blair Brown argued with Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey. Brown appeared to throw a punch at Casey, though it didn’t connect with Titans safety Brynden Trawick between the men. Casey wouldn’t comment in the locker room about what happened. But he did note the Titans swept the division champs.
Jaguars safety Barry Church hurt a hamstring, but he returned.
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan left for a play when officials stopped action in the fourth quarter for an injury. He also returned and finished the game.
Jaguars: Host Buffalo in their first playoff game in Jacksonville since the AFC championship game in January 2000.
Titans: Visiting Kansas City on Saturday for their first playoff game since January 2009.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker