Trevor Lawrence couldn’t do it so the defense took care of it.
Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8) – Tennessee Titans (7-10): 20-16
The playoffs have started! It is certainly not official since the post-season does not begin until next week, but when we look at this meeting between the Jaguars and the Titans we may already have a taste of what will await us. If in this match the level of play has not (yet) reached the heights, everything else was there: the atmosphere, the suspense, the scenario, the challenge… In this little game, it’s the Jaguars who knew how to pull out the best to win.
A success that owes more to the ability of this defense to be decisive than Trevor Lawrence (20/32, 212 yards and 1 TD). Because opposite, Tennessee has resisted well, despite limited means. Joshua Dobbs (20/29, 179 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) and the Titans led the entire game. Until that crucial fumble returned to the end zone by Josh Allen with less than 3 minutes left. Jacksonville is in the playoffs and yet it was not won.
The play that feels the @Jaguars to the playoffs 👏 pic.twitter.com/GyBkkzIP5j
— NFL (@NFL) January 8, 2023
A near-perfect plan
At the start of this meeting, the tactics were simple for Mike Vrabel and his team: take the score, manage the clock and hold on in defence. Easier said than done when you are on six consecutive defeats and you are lacking in confidence. Still, the plan works perfectly early in the game. The first phase of the project is quickly successful with a 10-0 inflicted on the locals. Randy Bullock opened the scoring in the first quarter, before Joshua Dobbs found Chigoziem Okonkwo on 21 yards for the first touchdown of the game (0-10). With long drives, and in particular the first which lasts almost 10 minutes, the Titans deprive the Floridians of the ball. That’s for the phase: “managing the timer”.
Finally, there remains a stage for the plan to be perfect, defense. This one holds good during this meeting. It will first completely annihilate the ground game. Travis Etienne (7 races and 17 yards), yet so good this season, will be almost invisible in this part. The defensive squad will force the Jaguars to punt 4 times and settle for a field goal on two drives in the second period. Better, it will even manage to cause a loss of ball on a fumble of Trevor Lawrence. Only downside, a touchdown conceded in the 2nd quarter. A 25-yard pass from the Jacksonville pitcher to Christian Kirk (6 receptions 99 yards and 1 TD) which at that time brought the locals to 7-10.
First playoffs since 2017
Despite a solid offensive line, Trevor Lawrence has indeed struggled to lead his team in the end zone. There is therefore this touchdown, but for the rest, it is imprecise. He therefore relies on his defense. First to leave his team in the game. The back lines are doing their job with only 179 yards conceded in the air and the front seven is very concentrated. Derrick Henry (30 races and 109 yards), overexploited, finds very little flaw. But this defensive squad will not only be solid, it will also be decisive.
In the fourth quarter, while the Jaguars had never been ahead in the score, Josh Allen took advantage of a fumble caused by Rayshawn Jenkins to go and score his team’s second touchdown in this game. A 37-yard run that will give Doug Pederson’s men a definite advantage. With this victory, Jacksonville returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Next week, they will host a Wild Cards meeting in Florida. Something unthinkable a few months ago when they posted a record of 1 win for 6 losses…