The Jaguars saw a 16-6 lead slip away in a 20-16 loss to the Titans. Jacksonville (4-11) finishes the season next week at Indianapolis. Tennessee (5-10) avoided being swept by the Jaguars with the win. Here are my takeaways from the game:
1. Meester’s Day-This was Brad Meester’s last game in Jacksonville. The 14-year veteran center announced on Wednesday that he would retire after the season. With the Jaguars finishing up next week on the road, today was the de facto Brad Meester day.
Before the game, Meester was the only player introduced. He ran out through the smoke and fireworks through the Jaguars tunnel then through a gauntlet of his teammates. The crowd roared. Meester’s wife shed a tear.
Then, on the Jaguars first offensive snap, Maurice Jones-Drew ran behind Meester for 6 yards. It was a nice start. Then, one off the most memorable moments in Jaguars history, and I kid you not. With the Jaguars facing a 2nd and 8 from the Tennessee 13 with just under 5 minutes left in the first quarter, referee Bill Vinovich turned on his microphone and announced “Number 63 has reported as eligible.” That is the first time that Meester has been an eligible receiver in his 14 year career. Chad Henne promptly thew a tight end screen to him. Meester made a man miss and plowed for nine yards and a first down.
Up in a luxury box, Meester’s family and friends cheered. The crowd cheered. His teammates cheered. The calloused skeptics in the press box even chuckled and lauded the play.
“We thought we could score,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said. “The players enjoyed it during the week, but we also thought we could make a play there.”
“It was pretty awesome to almost score,” said Meester. When we came in on Wednesday, I found deep in the playbook an O-Line screen to Brad. I was nervous about it. I’ve never played another position.”
Meester admitted it was a tough play.
“I was exhausted, but that’s something I’ll always remember the rest of my life,” he said.
On the next play, Henne put one high in the air and Marcedes Lewis went up and grabbed it for a four yard touchdown, giving the Jaguars the lead.
2. Jaguars Defense Much Different-What a difference a year makes. Of the 11 players who started on defense for the Jaguars, only three of them were starters this time last year (Paul Posluszny, Tyson Alualu and Jason Babin). The Jaguars figure to have more stability heading to next year, especially considering the entire starting defensive secondary was new this year and consists of three rookies.
3. Jaguars Couldn’t Stop the Run-The Jaguars defense gave up 68 rushing yards in the first half, but after halftime, Tennessee piled up 114 yards on the ground. With the Jaguars already missing linebacker Russell Allen, defensive tackle Roy Miller and linebacker Geno Hayes do to injuries, and then losing cornerback Dwayne Gratz and defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick, Jacksonville was thin on that side of the ball. Chris Johnson and Shon Greene both took advantage.
4. Second Hall Offensive Struggles-The Jaguars were unable to sustain and substantial drives in the second half of the game. There were moments when the Jaguars moved the ball well, especially in the no-huddle, up tempo offensive approach. I suspect that we’ll see more of that approach next year, when most of the players will have gotten comfortable with Jedd Fisch’s system. As a side note, none of the Jaguars wide receivers who played against the Titans had an NFL catch before this year.
5. Chad Henne’s day-For the second straight week, Henne threw a late interception that cost the Jaguars the game. Last week, the pick in the end zone was due in part to a holding call on receiver Mike Brown that wasn’t called. This time, Henne tried to force the ball into double coverage in the middle of the field to Marcedes Lewis. The ball was picked off by safety George Wilson to clinch the win for the Titans. Henne finished the game 24/34 for 237 yards, two touchdowns and the interception.
Play of the Game (Jaguars edition)-No doubt, it was the Meester catch for sentimentality. As for the game, the biggest play was the blocked extra point. It became a big part of the game on the Jaguars next to last possession when Bradley decided to go for it on fourth down, in Josh Scobee’s field goal range and trailing by four. Had the Jaguars made the extra point, Bradley would have kicked the field goal to tie the game.
Player of the Game (Jaguars edition)-Tough to give it to anyone except Meester. For 14 years he’s been the Jaguars steadiest, if not more decorated player. You won’t find a teammate who has a bad thing to say about Meester, ditto for most opponents, (expect, perhaps for some defensive tackles).