Scout's take: Perfect defensive call beat Titans in key moment

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Jaguars are moving on to the playoffs and the Titans ended their season on a seven-game losing streak and head into the offseason with some major questions about their personnel, coaching and roster construction.

For much of the first half of the game, the Titans out-coached and out-played the Jaguars and stuck to a game plan that seemed to work perfectly.Trylon Burks

© Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the game it was obvious the talent difference on both sidelines with the Jaguars having a significant advantage at the quarterback and offensive skilled positions. 

But the first half played out differently than expected for the two teams

Titans quarterback Joshua Dobbs was outstanding.

Callahan & Binkley, PLCThe Titans played a ball-control offense that focused on long drives to drain the clock and keep the Jaguars’ offense off the field and used kicker Randy Bullock to provide points.

Dobbs was accurate, poised and in control, making difficult throws on critical downs.

Tight end Austin Hooper and Dobbs were in sync on big third- and fourth-down conversions. Derrick Henry’s runs were a force because of the toll it took on the Jacksonville defense early in the game.

The time of possession in the first half was well in the Titans’ favor with 18 minutes.

Dobbs was very accurate completing 12 for 15 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown, while Henry had 17 rushes for 71 yards.

That is 35 offensive plays against the Jaguars 20 plays in the first half. The Titans’ defense held the Jaguars to only three first-half possessions. Meanwhile, the Titans’ had drives of three, 18, seven and 11 plays.

Bill Vinovich and his officiating crew for this game had called fewer penalties than any crew in the NFL this season. That was also a perfect match for the Titans.

The Titans had a record of 10-3 with Vinovich’s crew.

The Jaguars didn’t outright win this game, but they did make a few plays that turned the outcome in their favor.

The Jaguars won the turnover battle two to one. The big one came on the sack fumble by the blind side safety blitz of Rayshawn Jenkins that was scooped up by pass rusher Josh Allen for the game-deciding score.

The blitz was a perfect call on the backside of the QB.

It was a long-developing play that was blocked well upfront by the Titans' offensive line and running back Hassan Haskins. The free blitzer Jenkins was the responsibility of the quarterback. 

Jenkins was five yards off the ball before the snap covering Hooper who was offset on the line of scrimmage but close to the left tackle.

With a five-man front look by the Jaguars, the defense zone-dropped left defensive end Josh Allen into coverage, blitzing Jenkins from the backside.  

Dobbs knew he had three blockers on his backside to block the two Jaguars' defensive linemen, but the lineman ran an end/tackle twist and forced all three blockers to react to the twist leaving Jenkins free around the edge.

Dobbs didn’t see the backside receivers Robert Woods was wide open on a 6-yard dig that would have converted the third-and-6 play because he was focused on the two front-side receivers and the crossing Hooper from his left to right who were bracketed by four defenders front and back.

The coverage forced Dobbs to hold the ball too long, allowing Jenkins time to get there. 

The zone dropper Allen was in comfortable position to scoop and score.

It was a perfect defensive call.

The Titans finished with 147 rushing yards to the Jaguars' 19.

Lawrence was sacked once to Dobbs’ four times.

The game-ending time of possession was the Titans' 36 minutes to the Jaguars' 24 minutes.

Turnovers were the key. The Titans needed to win in that department.

The best QB on the field was Dobbs finishing the game 20 for 29 for 179 yards and one touchdown. Lawrence was just 20 for 32 for 212 with a TD, and a missed TD.

The best RB was Henry who finished 30 for 109 tough yards.

The best TE was Austin Hooper with four big critical down receptions for 38 yards and the next best was Chig Okonkwo with three for 42 and a touchdown.

Hooper played 34 plays; Okonkwo only played 33 of the Titans' 76 offensive plays. Geoff Swaim played 42. 

Swaim’s blocking was poor in this game. He struggled to block on the front side of run plays against the Jaguars' 2022 first-rounder Travon Walker who easily shed and beat his block to make tackles in the Titans’ backfield.

The Tennessee defense did a great job against tight end Evan Engram who torched them in the first matchup. Engram finished the game with four catches for 27 yards.

The Titans’ defense made the Jaguars' run game almost obsolete.

Special team returns by Jaguars Jamal Agnew and the Titans' inability to consistently cover Christian Kirk helped the Jaguar offense push the ball downfield and into scoring areas.

In games that are close and competitive, special teams and turnovers are key. 

Agnew finished with a 31-yard average on kickoffs and a 16-yard average on punt returns. His big 54-yard kickoff return to put the Jaguars immediately in scoring position.

Treylon Burks had four receptions for 19 yards but had two contested passes knocked away by defensive backs.

Burks needs to win those tough, contested throws. 

He is a big, physical receiver who doesn’t have elite run-away speed and will always be in close contact with defenders.

That means he must win those balls.

Where was Jeffrey Simmons? Denico Autry? 

The Jaguars had four sacks and one of those was a game-changing play.

The Titans rested their two best defensive linemen last week so they were ready vs the Jaguars, but they struggled to be impactful in the game.

Simmons finished the game with three hurries (one of which did prompt Lawrence to miss a TD throw and resulted in a field goal) and Autry had two. Only one hit on the QB between them.

Tear Tart did finish with a sack. DeMarcus Walker had a couple of pressures. Rashad Weaver had a fumble recovery and tipped pass on a crucial third-down play.

Simmons played 40 of the defense's 48 plays. Autry played 41. Walker only played 15 snaps.

Monty Rice played well in the run game but was subbed out in passing situations.

The Jaguars helped the Titans early in the game when they got cute on a great drive that was in scoring territory but fumbled the ball on a reverse, giving the ball back to the Titans.

Since the Jaguars struggled to run the ball only attempting six rushes in the first half, they needed a good passing game from Lawrence.

But Lawrence missed an easy touchdown to Zay Jones who was wide open on a busted coverage by the Titans. 

That forced the Jaguars to kick a field goal giving the Titans' defense a +4 on that drive.

The coverage looked like Roger McCreary was supposed to carry Jones into the end zone with man coverage and a safety underneath but all defensive backs left Jones free and wide open behind the coverage.

Blake BeddingfieldLawrence made multiple bad decisions in the red zone.  On third-and-3 he took the deeper end-zone route versus a tightly covered receiver by McCreary, instead of the short open receiver 2 yards past the sticks and continuing a drive. That forced another field goal.

Dobbs fumbled on a sack and threw an interception when his arm was hit in the pocket on a third down. The conservative offense made big costly mistakes.

They did such a good job for most of their time on offense, controlling the clock and keeping that Jaguars offense on the sideline. But the career backup Dobbs had too many critical mistakes in a tight ball game.

Dobbs fumbled again late in the fourth quarter but recovered it himself on a pass rush by Allen vs Nicholas Petit-Frere.

Positives: Derrick Henry, Austin Hooper, Randy Bullock, run defense, Rashad Weaver

Negatives: Jeffrey Simmons, Denico Autry, pass rush, Geoff Swaim, Dennis Daley, Treylon Burks

Notes: Titans running back Jonathan Ward had a great effort run after a catch to stay on his feet and get a first down.

Simmons needs to improve his pass-rush repertoire to go to the next level of pass-rushing defensive tackles.

He has some dominating traits, strength, punch and power to move upfield while pushing the pocket, but his go-to rush moves against veteran offensive lineman like Brandon Scherff were ineffective.

Simmons consistently works the bull rush, swim and rip. He is capable of working either side of the block but gives too much space between him and the blocker on his rush, this allows the blocker to recover, replace his hands and easily front or mirror the defender.

Space is made for an Aaron Donald-type defensive tackle and not the power rusher that Simmons is.  Simmons needs to watch Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones and how he attacks guards on his pass rush to improve his consistency as a rusher. 

The tools, motor, effort and ability are in him to be a 12-15 sack player and still dominate in the run game.

The Titans are in flux.

This is a team that will struggle to compete the way it is currently constructed.

Injured players, older veterans and disappointing young draft picks will force this team to consider rebuilding this roster.

The Jaguars are on the rise and look like the best AFC South team moving forward.  The Colts have a solid roster but need a QB and a good head coach to make a difference.  If the Texans lose on Sunday, they are in position to acquire a franchise-changing quarterback for their team with the first overall draft choice.

The Titans could quickly go from first to fourth unless the team figures out a way to rebuild this roster in the offseason. 


Blake Beddingfield was a Titans' scout for 19 years, through the 2017 draft. He was the team's director of college scouting for his final six years. Follow him on Twitter at @BlakeBedd. He’s brought to us by Callahan & Binkley, who can help you with personal injury and medical malpractice cases.

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