NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The Tennessee Titans’ defense helped carry them into the playoffs last season. If they keep playing like this, it might be enough to carry them even further.
The Titans sacked David Garrard seven times, recovered his fumble and Cortland Finnegan intercepted him twice in beating the Jaguars 17-10 Sunday in the season opener between the AFC’s two wild cards in 2007.
“If you get seven sacks in a ballgame, it speaks volumes of what you’re doing up front and the turnovers, definitely it was a huge day,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “We had to have that kind of day definitely to win this ballgame.”
Vince Young had a rough day; he was intercepted twice and threw for 110 yards. His second pick came a play after Finnegan’s second interception. Fans booed heavily as he was slow to head back onto the field late in the fourth quarter. Young sprained his left knee a couple plays later and had a pair of crutches at his locker after the game.
The Titans will run tests on Young’s knee, but Fisher said he didn’t think the injury was serious.
Tennessee’s first-team offense went through the preseason without scoring a touchdown, and the Titans came into this game believing the defense would have to win the game.
Jacksonville came in without top backup Richard Collier on the offensive line after he was shot earlier this week. The Jaguars had three more linemen get hurt, and Maurice Williams and Vince Manuwai did not return. That helped Tennessee limit the Jaguars to 187 yards offense, just 33 yards rushing by what was the NFL’s second-best rushing team in 2007.
“We had protection issues and timing issues throughout,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “We battled through it. We made some nice plays, but part of the problem was the way they rushed.”
All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth got the first and last sacks of the game for Tennessee, the final one securing the victory as time expired. Tackle Tony Brown had two sacks, and Pro Bowl end Kyle Vanden Bosch had one play in which he sacked Garrard, forced a fumble and recovered the ball.
“I thought this defense was capable of playing really well,” Vanden Bosch said. “I knew we would play well today, but I was surprised. We did well in all facets of the game today.”
The Jaguars, who had been an NFL-best 9-4 in season openers, now have lost two straight to Tennessee.
Jacksonville had first-and-goal from the Titans 9 in the final minutes. But Garrard was incomplete on three straight passes, and Josh Scobee kicked a 27-yard field goal with 2:13 to go. The Jaguars tried to recover an onside kick, but illegally touched it before the ball went 10 yards.
The Titans failed to pick up a first down on fourth-and-1, giving Jacksonville a last shot with 14 seconds to go. Garrard completed one short pass, then Haynesworth ended it.
“This is the sorest I’ve been in a long time,” Garrard said. “I don’t like being this sore.”
The Titans showed off the best addition to their offense in Chris Johnson, their first-round pick out of East Carolina. He ran 15 times for 93 yards and had three catches for 34, including a 7-yard touchdown pass from Young. LenDale White added a 1-yard TD rush in the fourth quarter.
The Titans had the fifth-stingiest defense in the NFL in 2007, and it was dominant for most of the day.
Another sack, this one by Titans safety Michael Griffin, forced the Jaguars to try a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter. But the ball went just outside the top of the right goal post. Scobee tried to argue his case with officials, but there was no replay.
Scaife finished with a career-best 105 yards receiving in the first 100-yard game of his career. … Fisher is 9-5 in season openers. … Finnegan had only one interception last year in his first season as a starter. … That sack was the first of Griffin’s career. … Del Rio said Williams hurt a biceps muscle in pregame warmups and tried to go before leaving the game, and he said Manuwai had a strain, but did not identify which body part. … Jaguars RB Fred Taylor’s streak of five straight regular-season games with 100 yards rushing came to an end. He finished with 18 yards on nine carries.