Tennessee played poorly enough to lose and great enough to win against a struggling Jaguars team. Kerry Collins and Justin Gage were the stars on offense, the defensive line dominated in the second half, and Titans punt returner Chris Carr had the game of his life.
Story of the Game: A Tale of Two Halves
One word describes the Tennessee Titans in the first half: flat.
On the Titans first play, Kerry Collins connected with Justin Gage for 47 yards. Three plays later, Collins threw an interception to Reggie Nelson.
The Titans managed a field goal on their next series. Then the air went out of the Titans offense.
Kerry Collins was 4 of 10 for 86 yards and an interception. Chris Johnson rushed for 35 yards and caught two passes for 19.
In the second quarter, Jacksonville began running the ball successfully. The Jaguars rushed for a total of 91 yards in the first half, and Maurice Jones-Drew scored two short rushing touchdowns.
The Titans helped the Jaguars with penalties. Defensive tackle Tony Brown was called for four penalties in the second quarter, including three in the red zone.
At halftime, the Jaguars led 14-3, and judging by the Titans first half performance, this seemed to be the day that Tennessee would lose its first game of the 2008 season.
The second half was dominated by the Titans in all phases of the game.
On the Jaguars first offensive series of the second half, Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse sacked David Garrard on second down. This play seemed to ignite the entire Titans team.
On the next series, Collins and Johnson led the Titans on a 45-yard drive which ended with a touchdown catch by Brandon Jones. After the touchdown, Jones was penalized in the end zone after a bizarre touchdown celebration.
Tennessee’s defense forced a three-and out on the next series. The Titans offense responded with a Collins to Gage touchdown pass on third down. The Titans led 17-14 and the defense began putting the clamps on the Jaguars.
Jacksonville became overconfident in its ability to run the ball against the Titans. The Jaguars repeatedly gave the ball to Jones-Drew and Taylor, hoping that one of them would break a big run. It never happened.
The Jaguars were also unsuccessful in the passing game. David Garrard was ineffective all day. He only completed 13 of 30 passes for 135 yards and one interception.
A late Collins-to-Gage touchdown pass sealed the victory for the Titans. Vince Young, who has been accused of being disinterested on the sidelines while waiting for his chance to play, celebrated the touchdown with Collins.
Collins finished the game by completing 13 of 23 passes for 230 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The Other Story of the Game: Chris Carr was a star
Titans punt returner Chris Carr deserves a game ball for his overall contribution to the victory. He was forced into action at cornerback after starter Eric King left the game with an injury. David Garrard picked on him early but Carr won his share of battles with Jaguars receivers.
After the Brandon Jones celebration penalty, the Titans were forced to kick off from the 15-yard line. Jacksonville could have capitalized by establishing great field position with a good kickoff return. Carr negated this when he flew down the field and tackled Jaguars returner Brian Witherspoon on the 28-yard line.
Carr saved his best and most important play for the fourth quarter. With the Titans leading 17-14, Carr halted the Jaguars comeback effort by intercepting David Garrard with 5:49 left in the game.
With each win, Tennessee establishes a franchise record. No Oilers/Titans team has ever begun this season 10-0.
But forget about the pursuit of perfection, and disregard those who say a loss would be good for this team. Tennessee needs every victory it gets. The Indianapolis Colts refuse to die, and a number of strong AFC teams are fighting for playoff spots, including next week’s opponent.
Next Week: J-E-T-S! Bretts! Bretts! Bretts!
The toughest ticket in America might be next Sunday’s matchup between the Titans and the New York Jets. America’s last hero, Brett Favre, has led the Jets to a 7-3 record. Both teams will be looking to make a statement. The Titans defense is great, and New York’s defense is strong, but this will not be a low-scoring game.
Watch video highlights of the Titans-Jaguars game by clicking here.