NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 17-6 victory over the Tennessee Titans was hardly aesthetically appealing, but it made the muddled AFC South playoff picture a bit clearer.
Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a career-high 186 yards, over 100 for the fifth straight game and surpassing the 1,000-yard mark on the season, for the Jaguars in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday.
The Jacksonville (7-5) defense kept Kerry Collins’ Tennessee offense out of the end zone again. The Titans (5-7) haven’t reached paydirt in 13 quarters, the longest such stretch in franchise history.
The Jaguars’ victory ensures they will retain at least a tie atop the AFC South with Indianapolis (6-5), which hosts Dallas later Sunday.
Jacksonville took the lead for good with a pounding first-quarter touchdown drive. Eleven of the 12 plays on the drive were runs – quarterback David Garrard handed Jones-Drew the ball seven times, and Rashad Jennings turned his fourth carry on fourth-and-1 into an 11-yard scoring burst up the middle. Josh Scobee connected on the point-after.
The Jaguars continued to control time of possession and were rewarded when a 13-play second-period drive culminated in another touchdown. Garrard found Greg Jones for 11 yards on third-and-1, Jennings picked up three on third-and-2 and Marcedes Lewis caught a pass for 10 yards to convert third-and-9. Garrard then ran a bootleg left for a 4-yard touchdown.
After Collins threw incomplete for Randy Moss on fourth down, Jacksonville scored once more before the half. Scobee was true from 26 yards out on the final play of the second quarter to give the Jaguars a 17-0 halftime lead.
Tennessee finally got on the board on its first possession of the second half. Collins hit Justin Gage for 25 yards on third-and-10 and Chris Johnson broke free for 21 yards. After a wide-open Bo Scaife dropped a third-down pass inside the Jaguars’ 5, Rob Bironas kicked a 37-yard field goal.
The Titans’ Jacob Ford then blocked a Scobee 49-yard field goal attempt, and Tennessee marched back into scoring range. Jaguars cornerback William Middleton committed pass interference on fourth down to give the Titans a free first down and Jared Cook caught a pass for seven yards on fourth-and-6 before Bironas’ 30-yard boot cut the Tennessee deficit to 17-6.
But, given two more chances with the ball, the weak Tennessee offense couldn’t make anything happen. Collins threw incomplete for Nate Washington on fourth down with about 7 minutes left.
With about 2:50 to go, Collins’ pass was tipped by Daryl Smith and intercepted by Middleton.
Jacksonville was able to run out the clock from there, with Jones-Drew providing a signature play by stiff-arming safety Michael Griffin near the sideline and running for 37 yards.
Johnson also passed the 1,000-yard milestone for Tennessee. He finished with 53 yards on 13 carries.
The Jaguars have won four of their last five games. The Titans’ losing streak, which knocked them out of first place in the division, is up to five.
NOTES: Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was in the booth in what the team called an “advisory role” after undergoing chemotherapy treatment Wednesday. … Collins, who returned from missing two weeks with a right calf injury, was Tennessee’s third starting quarterback in three weeks. Vince Young, who is out for the season with a right thumb injury, and rookie Rusty Smith started the previous two games. … Jacksonville had lost five straight road December games. … Tennessee beat the Jaguars 30-3 in Jacksonville Oct. 18. … The Jaguars’ Mike Sims-Walker was out with a right ankle sprain. … Jacksonville hosts Oakland Sunday. The Titans continue their stretch of three straight home division tilts when the Colts come to town.
Photo above: Maurice Jones-Drew (32) carries the ball as Michael Griffin tries to tackle him. (Frederick Breedon/AP)
Video credit – CBS