Back to reality: Titans dominate 2nd half, top Jaguars 37-16
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tennessee and Jacksonville each played much more like all those preseason predictions Sunday.
Derrick Henry, Delanie Walker and Jalston Fowler each ran for touchdowns, and the Titans pounded the Jaguars in the second half for a 37-16 victory.
Reality check? The result was quite possibly more indicative of what to expect from the AFC South rivals than what they showed in their season openers.
“Those guys wanted to come out the second half and make a statement, and I think they did,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
Henry finished with a career-high 92 yards on the ground for the Titans (1-1), including 87 in the final two quarters. His 17-yard touchdown run , which seemingly broke Jacksonville’s defense in the third, came on a play the Titans installed Saturday night.
“It was awesome to start running the ball the way we did in the second half, to start popping the holes open and get the runs breaking out,” right tackle Jack Conklin said.
“It was huge for us. It’s picking up where we left off last year. That’s the way we want to play. It’s smash-mouth football. We love when (the coaches) want to run, run, run the ball. That’s what we’re all about.”
Starting running back DeMarco Murray spent much of the second half standing on the sideline and wearing a baseball cap backward, nursing a tight hamstring. There was no need to risk him in this one, the third consecutive lopsided score in the series.
Marcus Mariota, returning to the place where he broke his right leg last December, completed 15 of 27 passes for 215 yards. He had a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith in the final quarter.
“Last year, I was leaving here on crutches,” Mariota said. “To be able to walk out of here with the guys, huge divisional win, I’m going to enjoy it.”
Tennessee’s performance surely eased some concerns about a 10-point home loss to Oakland in the opener. The Titans ran 21 times for 95 yards against the Raiders, hardly the ground attack Mularkey craves.
Tennessee finished with 179 yards on the ground against Jacksonville, including 121 in the final 30 minutes.
“We tried it in the first half and it didn’t go so well,” Mularkey said. “It was the patience of sticking with it.”
Jacksonville’s home opener felt eerily similar to most of the team’s performances the previous five years: Lackluster offense and countless mistakes.
Blake Bortles threw two interceptions, including one on a ball tipped at the line, and fumbled once. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown to Allen Hurns in garbage time.
Rookie Leonard Fournette scored for the second time in as many games , but this one came with the game out of reach. Tennessee led 30-3 before Fournette found the end zone. He finished with 40 yards on 14 carries.
The Jaguars (1-1) enjoyed a near-perfect opener at Houston, running the ball with authority, avoiding errors and playing stingy defense.
Jacksonville looked nothing like that against Tennessee. The team’s biggest issues were turnovers (three) and penalties (10).
“With the way we play, we can’t have any mistakes,” receiver Marqise Lee said. “It’s only the second game. You’ve still got 14. If you’re sitting here worried, then you’ve got a problem.”
Titans rookie receiver Corey Davis injured a hamstring. Fellow receiver Taywan Taylor injured his left ankle on punt coverage in the second quarter, but later returned.
Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson left the game with a groin injury in the third quarter. Linebacker Lerentee McCray injured a knee and did not return. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett left the game with a pectoral injury.
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey got a little chippy after Walker’s 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. Ramsey pushed Walker after he was in the end zone and was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Several players exchanged words as Mariota grabbed Ramsey and whispered something into this ear.
“Going to let somebody walk in our end zone celebrating and (stuff) with the ball in one hand,” Ramsey said. “I gave him a little nudge. I ain’t even really get all in to him, to be honest. I gave him a little nudge.”
The Jaguars wore “One Florida” stickers on their helmets to recognize those affected by Hurricane Irma. Defensive end Dante Fowler, who grew up in Florida, led the team onto the field while carrying the state flag.
The Titans host Seattle next Sunday. Tennessee has lost six of the past seven in the series.
The Jaguars travel to London to play Baltimore. It will be Jacksonville’s sixth consecutive season playing at Wembley Stadium, the most of any NFL team.