The Jacksonville Jaguars are getting used to winning close games late in the fourth quarter. Now it's time to get used to them being part of the AFC South race.
Jaguars defensive end Alan Branch sacked Marcus Mariota at the Titans' 26-yard line as time expired to key a 19-13 victory for the Jaguars over the Tennessee Titans. Jacksonville scored 10 points in the final 3:30 to push their record to 4-5. All four wins have come down to the final minute, with three of them coming down to the final play.
It was a typical spirited but uneven effort by a Jaguars team that is greater than the sum of their parts. Their defense forced a key three-and-out and a fumble in the final six minutes, setting up Greene's 63-yard punt return and Julius Thomas' go-ahead 5-yard touchdown. Thomas has looked slow and uncomfortable in the Jaguars' offense, including in this game, so perhaps the big play will spark his season.
This was not a pretty game to watch, but there is plenty to like about both young quarterbacks. Blake Bortles had his usual flash plays that showed off his towering skill set, but he also had an ugly interception on a throw to Thomas. Mariota played nearly mistake-free football, throwing for 231 yards with little support around him. When the Titans got aggressive with some vertical shots and Mariota used his legs early in the third quarter, they were rewarded with a big touchdown drive.
Jacksonville was not as efficient. In the Jaguars' first six trips into Tennessee territory, they scored only nine points. It seemed like Gus Bradley was coaching not to lose, including his decision to kick a field goal to go up six points with over two minutes left. Bradley could have instead gone for it on fourth-and-inches to essentially end the game, but he trusted his defense. Mariota got the Titans in position for a short-range Hail Mary, but he couldn't get the pass off. It was typical of a night where the Jaguars' defensive line dominated Tennessee up front.
The pieces are in place for this Jaguars team to be relevant again sooner than later. They might not quite be playoff ready yet, but they are set to play meaningful games in December for the first time since 2010.