Having blown it last week against one of the league’s poorer teams, the Tennessee Titans were in no mood to let it happen again, as they kept their postseason hopes alive by hanging on for a 23-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Matt Hasselbeck passed for 350 yards – mostly in the first half – as the Titans seemed in control more or less throughout, but had to force a red zone turnover in the fourth quarter and run out the last four minutes to make it safe.
Tennessee travels to Houston to face the Texans next week and their reward for a win could be another trip to Houston in the first round of the postseason, though they’ll need help. Jacksonville’s season was over a long time ago, but they have remained competitive for the most part and will look to reward their fans’ patience with a home win over the Colts to end the season on a positive note.
Let’s look at some of the major individual stories from Saturday’s game:
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
Last year’s first round pick, Tyson Alualu (-4.5) has struggled in his second year in the league. It can’t have helped him that the Jaguars have suffered multiple injuries on the defensive line all season, but he still needs to show more than he did in this game, where he ended up with zero tackles. He rushed the passer 38 times and had just one hit and one pressure, but his worst moment may have been jumping offside on third-and-short with 9:51 remaining in the second quarter. Alualu seems to be making more rookie mistakes like this than he did when he was a rookie.
Cameron States His Case
With Jacksonville looking ahead to next year, they must be encouraged by the performance of undrafted free agent Cameron Bradfield (+1.4), who performed well in his second start. Bradfield hasn’t had much impact as a run blocker, but he only allowed one hit and has only given up four QB disruptions in 178 snaps this season. That gives him a rating for Pass Blocking Efficiency of 96.6, which only nine NFL tackles with as many pass blocking snaps as him have bettered. With the inconsistent Guy Whimper out injured, Bradfield has taken his opportunity to show that he can be as reliable, if not moreso, than Whimper and has perhaps given himself a fighting chance at a starting role next season.
We don’t often shine the spotlight on fullbacks, but let’s give Greg Jones (+1.8) some respect here. He graded out positively as a runner, receiver, run blocker and pass blocker, rounding off a solid all-round display with a short touchdown run that cut the deficit to six and definitely had Titans fans biting their nails. He’s our second highest rated AFC fullback, which should theoretically put him on the fringes of a Pro Bowl invitation. In fact, since the midway point of the season, he has a +7.5 overall grade, so if he’d played like that all year, he’d be way out in front.
Tennessee – Three Performances of Note
With eight catches for 169 yards and a touchdown, Jared Cook (+4.0) inflicted the most damage offensively for the Titans. Even more impressively, he was only actually thrown to eight times, beating five different players for catches. You won’t see a better example of how to attack a Tampa-Two style defense all season than Cook’s 55-yard touchdown here, as the two outside receivers occupied the two deep safeties, opening up the middle of the field for Cook to beat Paul Posluszny by a step down the seam and Hasselbeck to drop a perfect pass over his shoulder. Cook lined up in the slot on 25 of his 41 snaps and ran a route on 32 plays overall, so it’s obvious the Titans know where his strength lies.
Morgan Steps Up
Like Alualu, Derrick Morgan (+2.8) is another first round pick who has failed to emerge as his team would have hoped in his second season. However, unlike Alualu, Morgan had a big impact on Saturday, recording a team-high six stops in his first game with a rating higher than +0.5 since the first half of the season. Morgan’s rookie year ended prematurely after a promising start, but this year has been uneven. However, he does grade positively against the run (+4.7) and just needs to improve his pass rushing skills. He did have one pressure and one hit (his first since week nine), so maybe that’s a positive sign.
Klug Continues to Impress
Although the Titans are not looking ahead to next year yet, it’s not too early for interested observers to start wondering how Karl Klug (+2.0) will fare in his second season. In a year where several rookies have made an impact rushing the passer, the fifth rounder just recorded his sixth sack from the defensive tackle position, beating one of the best pass-protectors this year in Eugene Monroe. He has been a productive pass rusher all season in a limited role. Klug also matched his best grade of the year against the run, which may signify he’s ready to take on a bigger role going forward.
– With all their injuries on the defensive line, the Jaguars had to resort to using Daryl Smith as a down lineman on 13 passing plays, something they’d only done a handful of times all season.
– The teams combined to miss just four tackles. Perhaps that’s why the Jaguars repeated a mistake that cost them earlier in the year and threw an interception on fourth and one late in the game instead of running it with Maurice Jones-Drew, who again had over 100 yards. It may also have something to do with Chris Johnson being limited to four carries in the first half.
– Jeremy Mincey played every snap for the Jaguars and registered two hits and four pressures.
PFF Game Ball
An obvious choice this week. Jacksonville had no answer for Jared Cook, who is really starting to establish himself as yet another breakout receiving tight end in this league.
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