JACKSONVILLE, Fla. » Blake Bortles revived a stagnant offense. Jordan Todman provided some cushion with a big run. And Sen’Derrick Marks sealed the victory with the most rewarding sack of his career.
The trio provided all the highlights in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.
In a matchup that was widely billed as unwatchable, Bortles, Todman and Marks offered some compelling moments in a relatively meaningless game.
Bortles completed 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Marcedes Lewis that got Jacksonville going late in the second quarter. Todman’s 62-yard run put the Jaguars ahead for good. He juked one defender and stiff-armed another in his first carry of the night. He leaped into the stands after his first score of the season.
Marks’ play, though, will get all the attention.
With the Titans driving, Marks sacked Charlie Whitehurst on the final play. It gave him 8 1/2 sacks on the season, triggering a $600,000 bonus in his contract. He stood up and rubbed his fingers together before getting mobbed by teammates near midfield.
The Jaguars (3-12) won for the second time in four weeks thanks to a rejuvenated offense that had been mostly stagnant for four-plus games. Playing the Titans (2-13) surely aided the effort.
Tennessee lost its ninth consecutive game and moved a step closer to securing the No. 1 draft pick.
The Jaguars had only 16 yards of offense until Bortles led them on an 80-yard drive at the end of the first half, ending it with a 1-yard pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis in the left corner of the end zone.
The Jaguars got the ball to start the second half, and Bortles found Marquise Lee on a 34-yard catch-and-run on third-and 7. After two more completions, Jacksonville went to some trickery with a backward to Cecil Shorts III, who then threw across the field to Todman to the 9.
It looked as if Jacksonville would have to settle for a tying field when Bortles was flushed from the pocket and scrambled down the sideline to the 2 on third-and-goal. But linebacker Avery Williamson was called for holding Lewis away from the play, giving the Jaguars new life. Toby Gerhart punched it in from the 1 on the next play.
The turnaround for the Jaguars was surprising. Losers of seven of their last eight games, the Jaguars had only two offensive touchdowns in their previous 46 drives over four games and nearly two quarters, and just like that, Bortles took them down the field for touchdowns on consecutive drives.
That was a bright spot in a game otherwise devoid of them early.
For the final NFL game on Thursday night this year, about the only thing at stake was the inside track for the No. 1 pick, and likely a slightly easier schedule. In this case, the loser had more to gain.
The Titans were led by third-stringer Whitehurst, who was replacing Zack Mettenberger. Whitehurst couldn’t miss at the start, and for the first time this year, the Titans scored a touchdown on their opening possession.
Whitehurst completed all six of his passes and capped an 84-yard drive on the Titans’ first possession with an 8-yard scoring pass to Jacksonville native Leon Washington. It was the first time this year the Jaguars had given up a touchdown on the opening drive. Houston now is the only team with that distinction.
The Titans smartly made sure their picked up more points midway through the second quarter. On third-and-18, Whitehurst found Kendall Wright in soft coverage over the middle for a 13-yard gain that enabled Ryan Succop to attempt a 50-yard field goal. It cleared the cross bar with a few yards to spare.
At that point, the Titans had a 179-16 advantage in yards, and held the ball for 13 more minutes. The Jaguars had only one first down, and their longest play from scrimmage was a 7-yard swing pass to Gerhart on the second play of their opening possession.
But things turned from there.