Jaguars reach playoffs with timely defense, just enough offense against Titans

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Rayshawn Jenkins and Josh Allen put the Jacksonville Jaguars back in the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

A defense that had been battered around all night finally came up with the big play: Jenkins’ strip sack of Tennessee Titans quarterback Joshua Dobbs and Allen’s 37-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown finally gave the Jaguars the lead with 2:51 to play. That gave the Jaguars (9-8) the AFC South title with a 20-16 win and sent them to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

The Jaguars defense made two big plays earlier in the second half — Tyson Campbell’s interception to set up a field goal and Roy Robertson-Harris’s sack to stop another Titans drive — but could only manage three points. The defense finally came up big when it mattered most.

Jenkins was untouched on a blitz and hit Dobbs’ arm just before he released the football. Allen fielded it on one soft bounce and went untouched into the end zone. It was the team’s 27th forced turnover of the season. They’ve scored 111 points off those turnovers, which is tied with the New England Patriots for the most in the NFL, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

It was the second time Jenkins saved the Jaguars this season. He intercepted Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and returned it for a touchdown in overtime to beat the Cowboys on Dec. 18.

This was the fourth time the Jaguars rallied to win in the fourth quarter. They also trailed the Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders and the Cowboys.

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The Jaguars pull within three after Christian Kirk hauls in a touchdown catch.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Troubling trend: The Jaguars turned the ball over on a failed trick play — Trevor Lawrence’s pitch to Jamal Agnew was high — and that was the team’s 13th lost fumble of the season, which is tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the most in the NFL. Lawrence was tagged with his NFL-leading ninth lost fumble of the season.

“Obviously we’ll make an emphasis of it,” coach Doug Pederson said this week about turnovers. “We’ve got to protect the football. Just like every week you try to create takeaways, but you’ve got to keep the football as well. We all understand the magnitude of what turnovers can do in games like this.”

QB breakdown: Lawrence missed two potential touchdowns with an overthrow and an underthrow. Lawrence overthrew a wide open Zay Jones in the end zone. Per NFL NextGen Stats Jones had 10.2 yards of separation from the nearest defender. Lawrence was pressured on the play but the miss forced the Jaguars to settle for a field goal to cut the Titans’ lead to 13-10.

On a third-and-3 early in the fourth quarter, Lawrence underthrew Christian Kirk in the front corner of the end zone. He was pressured again when corner Roger McCreary was able to catch up to Kirk, who had a step, and broke up the pass. That forced the Jaguars to settle for another field goal to cut the Titans’ lead to 16-13. That possession began with Tyson Campbell’s interception of an underthrown pass by Dobbs. A touchdown in either situation would have given the Jaguars the lead and put pressure on the Titans.

Buy on…Jamal Agnew: The Jaguars’ returner had a big day, with 125 yards on four kickoff returns and 33 yards on two punt returns. He jump-started a stagnant Jaguars offense with a 54-yard return that set up the Jaguars at midfield. That turned into the Jaguars’ only offensive touchdown. That makes up for the fumble earlier in the game. Agnew has been close to breaking several returns for touchdowns in the last month, and now he’ll have at least one more week to try and get one. — Michael DiRocco

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Derrick Henry stiff-arms a Jaguars defender to the ground on a run near the sidelines.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans’ loss ended the season and cost Tennessee the AFC South Division title. The Titans led for most of the game but two late turnovers doomed them. Tennessee’s defense held the Jaguars to three yards on seven plays in the fourth quarter, not counting the two times Jacksonville downed the ball to run the clock down.

Tennessee’s seven-game losing streak paired with the Jaguars’ five-game winning streak was the difference in the season. The Jaguars swept the Titans for the first time since 2014.

Describe the game in two words: Nail-biter. OK, maybe that’s one word. But the Titans dropped their sixth one-score game of the year, despite holding a lead late in the fourth quarter.

Troubling trend: Rookie cornerback Roger McCreary gave up another touchdown catch pushing his season total to seven. This time Christian Kirk beat McCreary for the score. He should’ve had safety help over the top but Joshua Kalu was late to the party. McCreary almost gave up another touchdown when he got caught in traffic, and Zay Jones was open in the back of the end zone. Fortunately for McCreary, Trevor Lawrence overshot Jones, and the Jaguars had to settle for a field goal.

QB breakdown: Dobbs finished with 20 completions on 29 pass attempts for 179 yards, one touchdown and an interception. In just his second start, Dobbs performed well against the blitz, where he completed seven of nine passes for 73 yards and a TD in the first half. But a Rayshawn Jenkins blitz in the fourth quarter led to a Dobbs fumble that was returned for a touchdown. At one point, Dobbs completed nine straight passes including a very well-placed throw to Austin Hooper on an out-breaking route on third down. Dobbs also made a perfect drop-in-the-bucket throw to Chigoziem Okonkwo for a touchdown. — Turron Davenport

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