JACKSONVILLE – Here’s what we learned from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 29-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday . . .
1. The Jaguars can win. Well, of course you learn that from a victory, you say. But remember: The Jaguars had lost 13 consecutive games dating to last season, and they hadn’t won with this coaching staff. A lot of the players on this team, too, never had won with the team. They needed to get that feeling, to remember it was possible. They did.
2. Winning feels good. Well, didn’t it? Remember that feeling.
3. The defense can make plays . . . This wasn’t the 2000 Ravens on the field Sunday for the Jaguars defensively, but this unit entered the game wanting to play better than it did leading to the bye. It absolutely did that, and holding the Titans to one first-quarter first down set the tone for the entire game. They had allowed touchdowns on the first two series in the three games before Sunday, so this start had an entirely different feel.
4. . . . and the defense can tackle, too. The Jaguars didn’t stifle the Titans’ offense the entire game, but they absolutely kept the Titans’ running game contained. Chris Johnson is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field and the Jaguars had tackling issues the last few weeks entering the bye. Johnson finished with 30 yards on 12 carries and the Titans as a team had 83 yards rushing on 27 carries. Consider the run stuffed on Sunday.
5. It’s easier to play with a lead. The Jaguars never trailed Sunday. That obviously hadn’t happened all season, but getting a double-digit lead early was critical. For the first time in a long time, it didn’t feel like a tragedy when the offense didn’t get a first down on a couple of third-quarter series and the defense didn’t feel like it was playing uphill the entire game.
6. Jordan Todman responded. Todman fumbled or bobbled three kickoffs in the Jaguars’ loss to the 49ers in London, and the team considered using
7. The offensive line is still struggling to run block. The Jaguars tried running a bunch of ways Sunday. They tried
8. The offense misses
9. The Jaguars did need a break. The Jaguars struggled in the last two games before the bye, and just looked like a tired team at times – perhaps because of a brutal first-half schedule that included five games outside the Eastern Time Zone. Whatever the reason, the Jaguars played better from the start on Sunday, and the energy level on defense was notably higher.
10. The Jaguars still need better quarterback play. Whether it has been Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne, the area has struggled this season. On Sunday, Henne started and played throughout, completing 14 of 23 passes for 180 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions. As was the case with Gabbert, Henne got little help from the rest of offense, but this area continues to be an issue.
11. Scobee is good. Kicker Josh Scobee has yet to miss a field goal or extra point this season, and on Sunday, he was clutch when it mattered. The Jaguars missed on several chances in the first half to take an insurmountable lead, but when Scobee had opportunities he took advantage with field goals of 32 and 44 yards.
12. The players believe in Gus Bradley. If this wasn’t evident before, it certainly was last week – and in the post-game afterward. The cheer players let out when Jaguars Owner Shad Khan gave Bradley the game ball for his first victory as a head coach was real. This team has wanted to get a victory to validate Bradley’s approach for a while. That was a huge topic last week, and they did it Sunday. There’s much more work to be done, but if one of Bradley’s main goals was to establish a culture and a foundation, indications through nine games are that’s happening in a big way.