Titans’ Kevin Byard reacts to first career TD in win vs Jaguars

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The Tennessee Titans could not have asked for a better start to their Week 5 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Just three plays into the game and facing a third-and-10 on their own 25-yard line, Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Dan Arnold hauled in a four-yard pass from Trevor Lawrence.

Arnold was immediately greeted by Titans defensive back Elijah Molden, who forced the ball out. Safety Kevin Byard was the first to hop on the ball, pick it up, and sprint to the end zone for his first career touchdown.

“It felt great — I got my first NFL touchdown,” Byard said following the Titans’ 37-19 victory. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m just excited to make a play, Elijah [Molden] made a great play. It was great to pop off the game like that.”

The Titans safety noted that he never had a defensive touchdown in high school but recorded four pick-sixes at Middle Tennessee State.

He’s had no shortage of interceptions in the NFL, though. Byard notched his second interception of the season as the game expired, marking the 20th of his career.

The former third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft led the league with eight interceptions in his sophomore season. Byard is a leader in the Titans’ secondary, becoming a turnover machine in his five-plus seasons, including one forced fumble in 2020 as well.

“I save all my turnovers,” Byard admitted. “I got a lot of them in my closet right now. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but I have an idea that when I retire and I have all my turnovers – I think I’m going to make me a leather couch because I have a lot [of turnovers].”

Leading up to Sunday’s matchup, Byard preached the importance of the Titans generating turnovers while limiting the big plays downfield, something they have struggled to do consistently in the early goings of this season.

And despite the winless record, Byard knew how critical it was that the Titans notch their second division win in as many tries against the Jaguars.

“It was a must-win for us — it was a division game,” the Titans’ safety said. “We understand that all of our division games are going to be tough. We kind of came off an emotional rollercoaster losing to the Jets, but we had to flush it and get ready for the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

Offensively, the Titans went 4-for-5 in the red zone while converting 5-of-11 on third downs, a much better showing than against the Jets last week.

Defensively, Tennessee still has some work to do. Byard and the defense limited the Jaguars to a 30 percent (3-of-10) third-down conversion rate, but they continued to give up the big play.

Following Byard’s scoop-and-score, Jaguars running back James Robinson ripped off a 58-yard gain. Overall, the Titans’ defense allowed seven plays of 15-plus yards, including two of over 50 yards.

With the Titans holding a 31-19 lead, Lawrence found Laviska Shenault Jr. across the middle, but the Jaguars receiver was able to gain 58 yards on the play thanks to some poor tackling by the Titans.

“We knew they were going to be a pretty good offense and they weren’t going to lay down once we got up on them,” Byard added. “I think we did a good job of containing them at times, but not consistently enough.”

The Jaguars marched downfield, and it initially looked that they had made it a one-possession game. But Lawrence’s touchdown run was overruled, and the Titans’ defense held strong, forcing a turnover on downs.

Looking ahead, the Titans are entering the meat of their schedule, hosting the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in back-to-back weeks. Both teams have electric passing offenses, so Byard and the Titans’ defense will need to figure some things out and quickly.

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