JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)—The outcome had long been decided. The humiliation was just beginning.
The Tennessee Titans capped a 30-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday with a brutish 11-minute, 17-play drive that triggered the first significant meltdown of Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio’s young career.
“What I saw, I won’t stand for here,” Del Rio said.
Eddie George ran for 41 of his 88 yards during the drive, which yielded a field goal by Gary Anderson and helped the Titans (6-2) reach the 30-point mark for the fifth straight game, tying a franchise record set in 1961—the old, high-flying AFL days—when the team was the Houston Oilers.
Steve McNair completed 21 of 27 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown, and Tennessee’s defense made big plays to set up two touchdowns. The Titans beat the Jaguars (1-6) for the eighth time in the last 10 games, and set themselves up as a legitimate playoff contender as they reach their bye week.
“When you take 11 minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter, you’re doing a great job of running the football,” said McNair, who came in as the AFC’s highest-rated passer. “The guys buckled down today and realized that we needed to get something established other than just pinning back our ears and throwing it.”
Indeed, it was the final, devastating drive that had both locker rooms talking after the game—a sequence that began after the majority of the 55,918 fans headed for the parking lots with the Jaguars trailing 27-10.
“I don’t know if I’d say we quit,” Del Rio said. “I’d say we left every ounce of technique we’ve learned somewhere else. We’re going to identify the guys who aren’t getting it done and find guys who can, because that’s embarrassing.”
Overall, Tennessee held the ball for a strength-sapping 39:14. There was nothing tricky about the final 65-yard drive. The Titans ran 15 times and passed only once. Anderson contributed the final insult when his 33-yard field-goal attempt clanked off the left upright and through for a 30-10 lead with 1:47 left.
“They knew what was coming and we were still able to run it,” Titans tight end Frank Wycheck said. “That’s a great sign for us heading into the second half.”
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s defense held Jacksonville to 297 yards—211 before David Garrard engineered a late, meaningless touchdown drive—and made several big plays of its own.
In the second quarter, cornerback Andre Dyson made a great play, snatching a pass from the hands of Jimmy Smith to give the Titans the ball at the Jaguars 29. Eight plays later, McNair hit Tyrone Calico for a 7-yard touchdown and a 17-3 lead.
Early in the third quarter, Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter made a devastating hit on Byron Leftwich, causing the ball to pop out of the rookie quarterback’s hands. Robaire Smith nabbed it and ran 43 yards to the Jaguars 7. Three plays later, George scored the second of his two 1-yard touchdowns for a 27-10 lead.
Tony Beckham set up Tennessee’s final drive by making the third interception off Leftwich early in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars were deep in Tennessee territory, trying to trim the 27-10 deficit.
Leftwich finished 15-for-28 for 158 yards and a 49-yard touchdown pass to Smith. This was the rookie quarterback’s third three-interception game in four starts. In all, the Titans turned three Jacksonville turnovers into 17 points.
“Turnovers have been the difference for us the last few weeks,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “If you can’t get in the end zone, at least put the offense in a situation where it can capitalize.”
Fisher once joked that Alltel Stadium was like a home away from home for the Titans and, indeed, he has a point. The Titans-Oilers are 7-3 here since 1995. But they’re not alone, especially this season. Jacksonville fell to 1-3 at home this year, and all three losses have been by double digits.
“We’re not getting it done,” Jaguars cornerback Fernando Bryant said. “We’ve won only one game this season, and until we start making some plays,we’re not going to win any more.”
Titans CB Andre Woolfolk sprained his ankle, WR Drew Bennett strained his calf, Kearse sprained his ankle and Robaire Smith strained his back. Fisher labeled Woolfolk’s injury as “severe.” … Jaguars DE Tony Brackens had an interception and tied Aaron Beasley for the franchise record for most careertakeaways with 18.