ReFo: Titans @ Jaguars, Week 16
While a number of teams around the league are jockeying for playoff position, the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars found themselves battling for AFC South pride along with some NFL Draft positioning as the consolation prize.
The Titans overcame a 16-6 deficit by scoring two unanswered touchdowns, including the eventual game-winner when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit wide receiver Nate Washington on a 30-yard strike with 14:25 to go in the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars failed in their three attempts to take the lead, including a huge fourth down stop on Tennessee’s 20-yard line as Ropati Pitoitua stopped running back Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield for a loss. Jacksonville’s final desperation comeback attempt was thwarted when free safety George Wilson picked off QB Chad Henne to ensure Tennessee’s standing in second place in the AFC South and push Jacksonville further up the draft board.
Here’s a look at some of the key performances from this AFC South matchup.
Tennessee – Three Performances of Note
Run Defense Up Front
It took some strong efforts up front for the Titans to limit the Jaguars to only 63 yards on 21 carries, particularly from their defensive ends, Pitoitua and Derrick Morgan. As mentioned, Pitoitua found himself in the backfield on one of the game’s biggest plays as he tackled Jones-Drew for a loss on 4th-and-1 late in the fourth, but he was also in on three other stops on his way to a +2.4 grade against the run. Morgan was right behind him grading at +1.9 as he led the team with five run game stops. He set the tone at the 14:09 mark of the first quarter as he got inside right tackle Austin Pasztor to make the tackle before finding himself around the ball throughout much of the afternoon. For good measure, both defensive ends through in positives as pass rushers as Pitoitua graded at +0.3 and Morgan graded at +0.8.
Washington Steps Up
Quietly productive throughout much of his career, Washington (+3.1) was the best wide receiver on the field Sunday has he was open continuously and he did some damage after the catch. The touchdown was clearly his biggest play as he snuck behind the defense on the “go” route, but he was strong throughout the afternoon. He beat cornerback Alan Ball on the post with 12:16 to go in the first, adding in a nice cut to add extra yardage. It was more of the same the very next play as he got open on the hitch route and burst upfield for an extra 10 yards. He finished the day with five of his six catches going for first downs for a total of 117 yards and the touchdown.
Controlling the Line of Scrimmage
Other than rookie center Brian Schwenke’s -2.3 overall grade, the Titans’ offensive line had a strong day both in pass protection and in the running game. Schwenke was simply handled too often by Jaguars’ defensive tackles at the line of scrimmage, but the rest of the line made up for it led by left guard Andy Levitre’s +3.7 overall grade. He did a nice job opening holes throughout the day, particularly at the second level against linebacker Paul Posluszny. Levitre’s +3.2 run block grade led the team. At right tackle, Byron Stingily made his season debut in place of David Stewart and he performed admirably on his way to a +2.2 overall grade. He surrendered a sack, but it was his lone pressure on 30 attempts, goo for a +1.1 grade in pass protection and he added a +0.6 mark in the running game. All together, Stingily stepped in nicely and the offensive line had a strong day on Sunday.
Jacksonville– Three Performances of Note
On the other side, the Jaguars did not handle business up front as the offensive line had their struggles. Both guards, Uche Nwaneri and Jacques McClendon squeezed out positive grades at +0.3 each, but the rest of the crew graded in the negative, led by Pasztor’s -3.7. He gave up a sack, two hits, and two hurries on his 36 pass block attempts while adding a -1.4 grade as a run blocker. At the other tackle spot, Cameron Bradfield wasn’t much better in pass protection surrendering a sack and five hurries on his way to a -2.0 grade in pass protection, but a few nice run blocks brought his overall up to -1.0.
In the last home game of his career, 14-year veteran center Brad Meester was the featured target of a screen pass in the first quarter that saw him knife his way to a first down. It was a special moment for the veteran to notch the first catch of his career and get acknowledged by the home crowd. For Meester, the day was more than just stats and grades, and it was nice to see the coaching staff honor his durability, at least for a day.
Posluszny Making Stops
Context is always needed when blindly looking at statistics, but Posluszny leads the league in run stops and he added eight more to the mix on Sunday to bring his total to 59 on the season. Granted, playing linebacker is more than just making tackles and Posluszny had also played more snaps against the run than any other linebacker in the league, but he made a positive impact throughout the game Sunday. Posluszny navigated through traffic to make a number of unblocked stops and he got some revenge on Levitre working off a couple of his blocks in the second half. He shed Levitre’s pull block at the 4:29 mark of the third quarter to get in on the tackle and then shed him at the second level to make the play with 10:07 to go in the fourth. While tackles are certainly not a great indicator of performance, Posluszny’s 12 paced the Jaguars and he made most of them count on his way to a +1.3 grade.
The Jaguars saw a lot of players get their first significant non-special teams action on defense, particularly linebackers John Lotulelei and LaTroy Reynolds and defensive tackle Jordan Miller. Lotulelei struggled to a -2.2 grade including a -1.8 mark against the run, while Reynolds fared a bit better grading at +0.5 on the first 32 defensive snaps of his career. He notched three stops on the day including one in the passing game. As for Miller, he saw his first action of the season, getting in on 32 snaps and grading at +0.2. He gave rookie right guard Chance Warmack all he could handle on his two run stops while standing up Schwenke a number of times to help redirect runs. While the sample is small, the third-year journeyman looks like he could be an asset against the run moving forward.
– All five of Fitzpatrick’s intermediate (10-20 yard) throws went to the middle of the field where he completed four of them for 85 of his 181 passing yards.
– Henne faced pressure on 12 of his 36 drop-backs completing 7-of-10 passes for 83 yards and a +0.5 grade. He graded at -1.1 in a clean pocket.
– The Titans ran for an evenly-dispersed 182 yards on the ground as Chris Johnson ran for 90 on 22 carries while Shonn Greene ran for 91 on 19 carries.
PFF Game Ball
In a game short on big plays, Nate Washington’s (+3.1) 117 receiving yards and 30-yard touchdown proved to be the difference.
Follow Steve on Twitter.