JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tennessee safety Kevin Byard has a plan for the ball from his first NFL touchdown.
It’s a fairly unique one, too.
Byard won’t be putting the ball on a shelf or in a display case. He’s going to add it to a collection of turnover footballs stashed in a closet back home and eventually have them turned into a leather couch or chair.
This one probably deserves to at least not be used as a cushion.
Byard scooped up a fumble on the third play of the game, went untouched for 30 yards and gave the Tennessee Titans a huge spark that propelled them to a 37-19 victory at Jacksonville on Sunday.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Byard, in his sixth season. “I just decided to make a play.”
Rookie cornerback Elijah Molden got the momentum-changing turnover started when he knocked the ball loose while tackling tight end Dan Arnold on a third-and-10 play. Byard fell on the ball, realized no one was around him, popped up and ran the other way for a 7-0 lead.
The Titans (3-2) never looked back, winning their fourth straight and eighth in the past nine meetings in the AFC South series.
“Great to pop off the game like, was super excited,” Byard said.
It was one of two huge plays that Tennessee’s much-maligned, injury-riddled defense turned in against Jacksonville (0-5), which lost its 20th consecutive game.
The other was a fourth-down stop in the fourth quarter when the Jaguars were trying to rally from an 18-point deficit.
Trevor Lawrence appeared to run for his second touchdown of the game on a third-and-goal play from the 5. But it was overturned on replay, and officials placed the ball inside the 1. Instead of calling for a quarterback sneak — coach Urban Meyer said Lawrence was uncomfortable doing that, which Lawrence later denied — offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell dialed up an outside run for backup Carlos Hyde.
James Robinson was on the sideline after running 18 times for 149 yards and a touchdown, having averaged more than 8 yards a carry. Meyer later questioned why Hyde was in the game for the critical play.
Titans defensive tackle Teair Tart blew up Jacksonville’s line and allowed Chris Jackson to drop Hyde in the backfield for a 3-yard loss.
“It was a big momentum swing for the team, them going for it on fourth down and me coming out there and making a play,” Tart said. “It was a big momentum swing, so felt like it was a crucial moment in the game to help the team build momentum, bring some positive energy to our sideline.”
The Titans needed it.
They gave up 454 yards, allowed 24 first downs, forced just two punts and played at least parts of the game without cornerback Kristian Fulton (hamstring), linebacker Rashaan Evans (quadriceps) and linebacker Monty Rice (groin). Linebacker Bud Dupree (knee) also was inactive, part of a growing list of injuries for the defending AFC South champions.
“Not going to apologize for winning,” Byard said. “Obviously, it wasn’t pretty, wasn’t perfect at all. We got a lot of stuff we need to clean up, but happy to get a win down here in Duval (County).”
Those two defensive plays were huge, maybe even the difference.