NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense followed up a shutout with a washout.
A defense that prides itself as one of the NFL’s best got embarrassed on a national stage by Derrick Henry in the Jaguars’ 30-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.
“It was sad out there,” Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.
Henry stiff-armed three Jaguars on an NFL record-tying 99-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and spent the rest of the night running all over a defense that seemed like it would have rather been anywhere else. Henry finished the night with a franchise-record 238 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just 17 carries.
Jacksonville’s toothless offense generally leaves its defense with no margin for error. The Jaguars produced a single-digit scoring total for the fifth time this season Thursday. They have exceeded 21 points just once in their last nine games.
So if the defense isn’t dominant, the Jaguars have little chance of winning. That defense was virtually flawless Sunday as the Jaguars snapped a seven-game skid with a 6-0 victory over Indianapolis that resulted in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s first career shutout loss.
But a defense that could do no wrong against the Colts did very little right Thursday.
“We pitched a shutout to a top-five offense, and then you come back and you’re sitting here right now and got drummed like that on national TV,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. “Who would want to watch the Jaguars on national television when you let Derrick Henry run for (almost) 250? He could have run for 300 today, if we’re being honest with ourselves. If I was his coach, I would have let him break the record.”
The difference was that the Colts continually threw the ball against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed 15 touchdown passes all season, matching Minnesota for the fewest of any NFL team. Jacksonville is more vulnerable against the run, which helps explain why the Jaguars have lost to the Titans four straight times.
“We’ve got to stop the run,” Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye said. “Everybody tried to talk about like how our defense is back. People have got to realize Indy played to our strengths. They tried to pass the ball (nearly) 60 times. (Tennessee) didn’t really try to pass the ball today. They just ran the ball and they dominated. That’s been the common denominator for the last four times we played them.”
Tennessee (7-6) took the lead for good by driving 73 yards on the game’s opening possession and scoring on Henry’s 3-yard touchdown run. Henry’s second touchdown was far more impressive and capped a four-play sequence that essentially decided the game.
Jacksonville (4-9) trailed 7-2 and had second-and-goal at the 1 with a chance to take the lead in the second quarter, but the Jaguars failed to score. Leonard Fournette was stopped on a second-down run, quarterback Cody Kessler couldn’t connect with Tommy Bohanon on third down and Fournette was stopped again on fourth down.
Then Henry delivered the knockout blow.
Henry cut around the left end and headed down the sideline. His first stiff-arm knocked cornerback A.J. Bouye out of the play about 20 yards downfield. Henry later used his arm to toss linebacker Leon Jacobs to the ground and then stiff-armed linebacker Myles Jack out of the way as well.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama then sailed into the end zone and celebrated with a Heisman pose. The only other NFL player ever to score on a 99-yard run was Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, who did it for the Dallas Cowboys against the Minnesota Vikings in 1983.
“He knows how to use that stiff arm good,” Bouye said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘Let me slow him up.’ I slowed him up and he stiff-armed two more guys. That’s when you realize how good his stiff arm is.”
Henry wasn’t finished imposing his will on Jacksonville’s defense.
He scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter — one on a 16-yard run up the middle and another on a 54-yard burst around right end. His 238-yard performance broke the franchise record previously held by Chris Johnson, who ran for 228 yards against Jacksonville on Nov. 1, 2009.
“It was like Little League out there,” Gipson said. “Every time he touched the ball, he was scoring, it felt like.”
Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell insisted the Jaguars didn’t give up even as they missed plenty of tackles and couldn’t bring down Henry. Campbell cited a goal-line stand the Jaguars made after the Titans already had built a 30-9 lead.
“We didn’t play good enough, but nobody quit,” Campbell said. “That’s not in our DNA.”
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