Rejoice, Tennessee Titans fans. A vision of hope emerges to eradicate the painful defeat suffered at the hands of the Oakland Raiders. Who is this messianic figure you ask?
His name is Blake Bortles, quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he is here to breathe life into your season.
In a 37-16 drubbing of the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Tennessee brought their record to .500 and 1-0 in the AFC South. The score at half: a paltry 6-3 with both teams laboring up and down the field only to settle for a handful of field goals. But, in the second half, the Titans rediscovered their running game with collective 179 yards rushing on 36 attempts and from there the rout was on.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota was not flashy but remained efficient throwing for 215 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 15-of-27 completions in his triumphant return to EverBank Field after fracturing his fibula on the team’s trip to Jacksonville last Christmas Eve. Second-year running back Derrick Henry carried the bulk of the workload, rushing 14 times for 92 yards and a score with entrenched starter DeMarco Murray resigned to watching from the sideline because of tightness in his nagging hamstring.
Murray contributed 25 additional yards on the ground but it would take nine attempts to do so.
The offense did not seemed hindered by the loss of Murray. Henry’s 17-yard touchdown dash was particularly impressive; the Heisman winner out of Alabama ran directly through corner Jalen Ramsey the Jags 2016 fifth-overall pick. Henry seemed to relish the contact and was instrumental in the Titans putting up 31 points in the second half .
“I definitely wanted to make him feel me,” Henry said with a grin to TitansOnline.Com. “I’m glad I got in. He’s a great player, man, one of the top defensive players in the league I think. It was just a good play-call and executed well.”
Henry gained 87 of those yards in the final two quarters.
Against the Jaguars, Titans coach Mike Mularkey’s team seemed to take one of his favorite cliches to heart. Tennessee was fairly dominant “in all three phases.”
The No. 18 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft impressed yet again on both defense and special teams. Rookie corner Adoree’ Jackson broke a 46-yard punt return loose in the third quarter to set the Titans offense up at the Jaguars 34-yard line. The field position set up the 17-yard Henry score, the game’s first touchdown by either team
Fellow rookies and third-round picks receiver Taywan Taylor and tight end Jonnu Smith contributed in big ways when called upon. Taylor hauled in a deep ball that went for a 42-yard gain. Mariota capped a six-play, 75-yard drive when he hauled in a screen pass and tooki it 32 yards to the house that would bring the score to 3o-3. Veteran tight end Delanie Walker chipped in with his first rushing touchdown.
On defense, the Titans ended three consecutive Jacksonville drives by forcing turnovers. Tennessee Linebacker Brian Orakpo made Jags rookie left tackle spinning on his way to strip sack Bortles which Erick Walden recovered for the Titans on the opposing 39-yard line. Reserve safeties Curtis Riley and Da’Norris Searcy stepped up in their roles, picking off one Blake Bortles pass each.
Bortles completed 20-of-34 passes for 223 yards, a touchdown and the two picks but he gained much of his yardage when the game was already out of reach to the delight of those who have him in Fantasy Football leagues.
The Titans will host the Seattle Seahawks (1-1) at Nissan Stadium September 24th at 3:05 P.M.
Taywan Taylor was shaken up on punt coverage and had his ankle looked at but returned to the game. Rookie wide receiver Corey Davis re-aggravated the hamstring injury he had been nursing this off-season.