The Tennessee Titans had plenty of excuses had the team blown a 30-17 lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Tennessee was without sophomore standout receiver A.J. Brown, who is battling a knee injury, top cornerback Adoree Jackson, who isn’t eligible to come off injured reserve until after next week’s game, and pass rusher Vic Beasley Jr., who Titans fans have seen only in training camp photos.
Then over the course of the game, cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Kevin Byard had to leave the game for differing reasons. The shorthanded defense bended but didn’t break as the Titans held off a late Jaguars’ push to seal a 33-30 win.
“I had confidence in the guys we had out there,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Obviously, (we) miss A.J. (Brown). He's a heck of a player. With (Cameron) Batson and Kalif (Raymond), Nick (Westbrook-Ikhine) was out there a little bit, I have a ton of confidence in those guys. They all bring something a little bit different to the table. “
The win marks the first time since 2008 the Titans have started 2-0. Kerry Collins was the quarterback then and the team won its first 10 games before falling 13-10 to Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs.
“Obviously, I haven’t been 2-0 since I have been here,” safety Kevin Byard said. “It’s kind of a place — this organization is getting things turned around in a good way and we are actually winning football. It will feel good going into the meeting room. Always there are things that can get fixed whether we were 0-2, 1-1, 2-0. Being 2-0 definitely feels great.”
“[We’re] definitely off to a great start,” Derrick Henry said. “I don't want to get too caught up in it. I enjoyed this win today. Make the corrections when we get back in the building and keep improving as a team.”
Leading 24-10 at halftime, the Titans defense allowed the Jaguars and quarterback Gardner Minshew to claw back into it.
Minshew orchestrated a 14-play, 89-yard drive that chewed up 7:56 of the third quarter to pull the Jags to within 24-17. The Titans answered with a 75-tard drive of their own to regain their two-score lead.
But Minshew led Jacksonville on touchdown drives of 75 and 86 yards to knot it up 30-30. The 24-year-old QB completed 30 of 45 passes for 339 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. It was his third career 300-yard game and the first 30-completion game for him in two seasons.
After Stephen Gostkowski nailed what would be his second game-winning field goal in as many weeks, the Titans defense showed up. Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons batted a Minshew pass up in the air right into the arms of Harold Landry, who sealed the Titans’ win with 49 seconds left.
“We have a lot we can learn from this game as a defense,” Landry sad. “But ... no matter what’s happening in the game, we always play to the end. Vrabes (Mike Vrabel) does a great job of preparing us for all types of situations and Jeff was able to get his hands up which we had been preaching all week, and I was able to come down with it. It’s easier to learn from your mistakes when you’re winning, so we are 2-0 and that’s the most important thing. We’ve just got to make sure we are learning so [the mistakes don't] continue into next week.”
Despite allowing 480 yards of total offense and trailing in every major statistical category — passing yards (315 to 231), rushing yards (165 to 123), first downs (30 to 23), yards per play (6.5 to 6) and time of possession (33:22 to 26:38) — the Titans defense stepped up when it needed it most.
“It's a tough league, and teams that can find ways to grind out tough wins in close games are usually teams that are going to win a lot of games,” Tannehill said. “Proud of the way our guys battled. [We] got off to a good start, then hit a little bit of a lull there, but found a way to make some crucial plays down the stretch and put points on the board to win the game.”
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