The Titans looked like they were on their way to yet another easy home win over the Jaguars when they took a 24-10 lead into halftime, but a defensive collapse in the second half let Jacksonville tie things up at 30, leaving Stephen Gostkowski to hit his second game winning field goal in as many weeks. It wasn’t the way you’d want to see the Titans close out a young Jags team, but fortunately for 2-0 Tennessee, the standings don’t take style points into consideration.
Let’s jump into winners and losers from Titans 33, Jaguars 30.
Winner: Ryan Tannehill
Let’s start here as Titans quarterback was locked in from kickoff, finishing 18 of 24 (75.0%) for 239 yards (10.0 YPA), 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. For the second week in a row, he was sacked just once as well.
While we are on the numbers, let’s take a look at Tannehill’s through two weeks: 47 of 67 (70.1%) for 488 yards (7.28 YPA), 6 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He’s also 2-for-2 on clutch game-winning drives.
He’s not just avoiding regression through the first two weeks, he’s playing even better than he did in his scintillating 2019 debut in Tennessee. Sure, it’s still early and the Titans haven’t played the toughest secondaries in the league to this point, but it’s hard not to love what Tannehill continues to do here. The Titans are now 11-4 when he starts at quarterback.
This game was one of Tannehill’s best as a Titan. He opened red hot, hitting a tough throw to Jonnu Smith for a touchdown on the opening drive and finishing his four-score day by connecting with Adam Humphries despite taking a big lick as he released the pass.
The four-year, $118-million contract Tannehill signed in March continues to look better and better for the Titans. Not only did the subsequent deals for Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson knock Tannehill’s contract outside the top ten among quarterbacks in annual average value, but Tannehill’s play early on has suggested that 2019 was not, in fact, a fluke.
Oh… and he did all this without his best wide receiver or an effective running game.
Loser: Everyone in the secondary not named Kenny Vaccaro
The Titans pass coverage was… horrendous in this game. Now, to be totally fair, this is a pretty good Jaguars receiving corps. D.J. Chark is a legitimate WR1 and rookie Laviska Shenault has a whiff of A.J. Brown to his game.
That being said, the Titans secondary often looked completely lost against this Jacksonville offense. Gardner Minshew chewed them up for 339 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air. That’s simply not good enough for a defense that was up and down in 2019.
The injury situation continued to devolve for the Titans secondary in this game too. Already down their top corner in Adoree’ Jackson heading into this matchup, they lost Johnathan Joseph to a leg injury in this game and briefly saw Kevin Byard head to the locker room with a shoulder issue, though he would return later.
Joseph did not return, however, leaving the Titans to finish the game with a less-than-100% Malcolm Butler (quad), rookies Chris Jackson and Kristian Fulton, and special teams veteran Tye Smith.
Mike Vrabel needs Jackson’s stay on injured reserve — next week’s matchup with Minnesota ends his mandatory three-week minimum stay on IR — to be short. You’d feel pretty good about a secondary that featured a healthy Jackson, Butler, and Joseph with some snaps for the rookies sprinkled in. It’s hard to feel real confident in a group that features two rookies so heavily.
Winner: Kenny Vaccaro
The one bright spot in the secondary was Vaccaro. He had a couple brilliant pass breakups, a sack, and led the team with 11 tackles, including 2 for a loss. It was a tremendous performance from Vaccaro in an otherwise dark day for the defense.
Loser: Rashaan Evans
Evans managed to avoid getting kicked out of this game, but he did little to atone for his Week 1 mistake. The Titans got gashed up the middle in the second half by undrafted running back James Robinson. While the responsibility for that belongs to the defense as a whole, not just one person, Evans is a big part of the Tennessee run defense.
Evans also picked up a facemask penalty that turned what would have been a two yard loss into a first down that helped re-spark the Jaguars offense in the second half. The Titans need better from Evans than what they’ve gotten in the first two weeks.
Winner: Jonnu Smith
The Jonnu Smith breakout year is well underway as the 4th-year tight end led the Titans with 84 yards receiving on 4 catches with 2 touchdowns. His first touchdown catch was a beautiful example of the growing chemistry between Smith and Tannehill.
After the initial route isn’t there, Smith improvises and breaks outside. Tannehill anticipates the adjustment and makes his throw high and away from the defender to give Smith a chance to go up and get it. That’s a trust throw and it was rewarded by Tannehill’s frequent offseason workout partner.
Loser: Kalif Raymond
Raymond struggled in Week 1, dropping a pair of tough catches and appearing to be out of sync with Tannehill on another route. Week 2 wasn’t much better.
The presumed WR4 for the Titans wasn’t targeted despite the team being without top receiver A.J. Brown and Raymond seemed to lose significant snaps to Cameron Batson. He also failed to make a positive impact on special teams for a second straight week.
It has been a rough start for Raymond after becoming an unlikely hero in 2019 and impressing in training camp. There are still 14 games to turn things around, but he may continue to lose opportunities if his play doesn’t pick up.
Winner: Cam Batson
The other side of this coin is Batson getting on the field for the first time since 2018. It took a minute to get used to seeing Batson in No. 13, but he very much looked like the ultra-quick, hard-nosed playmaker we saw glimpses of during his rookie season.
Batson had two catches for 26 yards and added an 11-yard run on a jet sweep. It was a really nice performance in a limited role for the former Texas Tech speedster and I’m interested to see if he holds onto a role moving forward.
Loser: Jadeveon Clowney
Clowney led the Titans with two quarterback hits, but he didn’t make the impact that he did in Week 1. He appeared gassed at times too, possibly a side effect of playing in Denver just five and a half days prior to this kickoff, but he was noticeably less disruptive.
I don’t think now is the time to panic over Clowney. We saw what he can do for this team in Week 1 and that’s valuable, but the Titans need him to play himself into shape quickly. Getting Vic Beasley and Derick Roberson back into the outside linebacker rotation would be helpful as well.
Winner: Stephen Gostkowski
Yeah, he missed an extra point, but this was a much steadier performance from the veteran kicker. He went 3-for-4 on extra points and 2-for-2 on field goals, answering questions about his leg strength as well by connecting from 51 and 49.
Two weeks, two game-winning kicks for Gostkowski. I’m sure the Titans would love to rely on those less, but it’s good to know he’s still capable of coming through in the clutch.
Loser: Derrick Henry and the Titans run blocking
For a second straight week, the Titans ground game struggled to really get rolling like it did for the back half of 2019. Derrick Henry had 84 yards on 25 carries (3.36 yards per carry) on the game. Not a terrible performance, but not what we’ve come to expect from King Henry either.
This running game has gotten significantly better later in the season in each of the past two years so there is certainly still reason to believe that Henry and his blockers will figure things out. It’s just not there yet.
Winner: Pass Protection
On the other hand, the Titans offensive line was excellent in pass protection for a second straight week. Tannehill was sacked just once, bringing his season total to two, far better than the eight sacks Tennessee had given up through two games last season. Tannehill looked very comfortable in the pocket for most of this game and that helped him dice up the Jaguars secondary.
Winner: Adam Humphries
Humphries was really good in Week 1 and he was excellent in this game as well. The Titans slot receiver hauled in 5 passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, with several of those grabs being big time chain movers.
It’s clear that the chemistry between Tannehill and Humphries has improved with an offseason of work together. The Titans are now 14-of-27 (51.9%) on 3rd downs, way up from their 37.8% conversion rate, and Humphries is a part of the reason why.