The Jacksonville Jaguars had their work cut out for them yesterday; not only were they tasked with rebounding from an ugly loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but also stopping a divisional opponent that has seemingly had their number for the better part of the past decade. With three straight wins against the Tennessee Titans, including Sunday’s 34-14 trashing, it’s safe to say the Jaguars have bested their metaphorical ‘boogeyman.’
From the very first snap the Jaguars objective on defense was clear; do not allow All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to win this game. On the Titan’s first three drives of the game, Henry rushed the ball seven times for a grand total of 15 yards–the Jaguars run defense set the tone early, and was a big reason the Titans first six drives failed to gain a single point.
Henry finished the day with 38 rushing yards on 10 carries–his first game against the Jags with less than 100 rushing yards in over three years. Allowing just 92 rushing yards on the day, the Jaguars have now held opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in six of their 10 games played; a much-needed return to form after allowing nearly 150 last week.
Offensively the Jaguars struggled to establish the running game against the stingy Tennessee front seven, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry as a team. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, however, kept the chains moving with his arm and his legs in what became a nearly-perfect outing for the third-year man.
His connection with wideout Calvin Ridley was on full display on Sunday, finding the former Atlanta Falcon seven times for 103 yards and two scores. In his first game since Oct. 8, wide receiver Zay Jones also got in on the action, securing all four of his targets for 20 yards.
With a dominant win on Sunday the Jaguars improved to 7-3, maintaining their lead in the AFC South over the red-hot Houston Texans by one game. As it pertains to playoff seeding, the Jags are tied with the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns for third seed.
With December looming, the Jaguars will have to play their best if they have any hope of stealing the one seed from Kansas City. Their performance on Sunday was a massive step in the right direction.
As is usually the case in a win like Sunday’s, multiple Jaguars played crucial roles in stiff-arming the Titans–though some stood out above the rest. Naturally, this is in no way, shape, or form aiming to minimize the efforts of the Jaguars that may go unnamed in today’s edition of Game Balls.
Let’s take a look at Sunday’s top performers.
Offense: QB Trevor Lawrence
When a team employs a talent like former number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence at the quarterback position, it’s hard to point to any one game as the ‘best’ of his career. Having watched him for three seasons, he’s had numerous games where his draft stock reflected his on-field performance.
For my money, however, Sunday was Lawrence’s finest hour.
With an inefficient ground game and the threat of relinquishing the Jaguars lead in the AFC South, the odds were stacked against the former Clemson Tiger. He responded with a four touchdown effort that would leave even his staunchest of doubters speechless.
Lawrence’s 262 yards and two touchdowns through the air helped the Jaguars put six on the board for the first time since week nine, and kicked off a stretch of five-straight drives resulting in points for the home team. His first score came on a three-yard pass to Ridley, who also found himself on the receiving end of Lawrence’s second touchdown pass late in the third quarter.
By then, however, the game was over. The Jaguars increased their lead to 27, and when all signs pointed towards conservatism Lawrence opted to send a message–and fast.
Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence has two of top 10 fastest speeds as a ballcarrier among QBs in 2023. Yesterday's 19.7-mph run was 10th fastest and his 20 mph 23-yard run vs. Saints was sixth-fastest. He, Kyler Murray and Josh Dobbs make top 10 twice. Desmond Ridder (20.74) is No. 1.— Michael DiRocco (@ESPNdirocco) November 20, 2023
Having already ran in a score to kick off the second half, Lawrence again mounted his horse and rode it into the endzone halfway through the fourth quarter. Lawrence seemingly forgot–or better yet, willingly ignored–legendary patriot Paul Revere’s iconic moniker ‘one if by land.’
Perhaps Sunday planted the seeds of an offensive revolution in Jacksonville, one that employs Lawrence's ability both by land, and by sea. Well, in this case, air.
Defense: The Jaguars Front Seven
If you wanted to call his week’s defensive Game Ball cheating, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s rather impractical to split a football seven ways, but if there was ever a performance worthy of sharing the spotlight, it’s this one.
Seemingly everybody got in on the fun; linebackers Devin Lloyd and Foyesade Oluokun combined for 17 total tackles and a half sack, while the pass-rush duo of Travon Walker and Josh Allen each recorded a half sack and a quarterback hit. The Jaguars deep group of defensive tackles made their presence felt as well, combining for five tackles and yet another quarterback hit.
As previously mentioned, Titans running back Derrick Henry was seemingly stuck in the mud from the opening drive and never quite got on track. For the folks in the back who may not have heard, Henry was held to less than 100 yards in Jacksonville for the first time since 2019.
His 10 rushing attempts on Sunday were his lowest against the Jaguars since his rookie season.
Outside of a 38-yard end-around to big-play specialist Chris Moore, the Titans rushing attack averaged a measly 2.6 yards per attempt; their lowest total allowed since letting up just 29 rushing yards to the Buffalo Bills in week five. It was also their seventh game of the season allowing less than four yards per tote, and their fifth without allowing a score on the ground.
With the Jaguars next two opponents, the Houston Texans and the Cincinnati Bengals averaging 3.6 and 3.9 yards per carry respectively, it’s safe to assume the trend of strong performances against the run will continue well into December.
Special Teams: K Brandon McManus
Even if punter Logan Cooke had a chance to make an impact, it would be difficult not to give Brandon McManus the nod this week. After concluding last week’s bout against the 49ers as the only Jaguar to impact the scoreboard, McManus had yet another perfect outing against Tennessee.
Since missing two field goals against Houston in week three, McManus has been on an absolute tear. He’s now nailed all 15 of his field goal attempts–including four from 50 yards or more–and all 16 of his extra point attempts in the seven games since that disastrous performance.
With his fifth Game Ball in his last six outings, McManus has established himself as one of the team’s most reliable and consistent players. Week 11 marks his seventh Game Ball of the season; surely a sore sight for many Broncos fans that peruse Jaguar Report weekly for news about their former Pro Bowl kicker.
On the season McManus has nailed 20 of his 22 field goal attempts and is still on pace to attempt 37 field goals, which would be the most three-point tries of his career. Should he attempt that many, he would finish the season with at least 34 field goals; the most in a single season of his career by a wide margin.
Since being released by Denver in the offseason, McManus has been a revelation for the Jaguars. As the eighth kicker to attempt a field goal in the teal and black since 2020, McManus had quite the quantity of kickers to top.
The quality of his play speaks for itself.