"I'm not satisfied and we're not satisfied, we could improve on a lot of things but I'm glad we got the win," Jaguars wide receiver Mike Thomas said.
It's great when a team can play poorly on a Sunday and still leave with a victory- against any NFL opponent. The problem is that the Jaguars played well on both sides of the ball. Very well.
"It felt great to get the season started off with a win," Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "I thought we played really well against the run, the D-line did a great job."
Offensively, the Jaguars held nearly a 2:1 time of possession advantage (39:38- 20:22), dominated on the ground to the tune of 163- 43 despite playing against a fresh, healthy Chris Johnson, had less penalty yards and almost twice as many first downs. If the scoreboard reflected the Jaguars level of play it would have read Jacksonville 28, Tennessee 7.
But it didn't. It read 16-14 and if the Titans had 40 seconds on the clock instead of 15 seconds on their final offensive play, the score likely could have been Tennessee 17, Jacksonville 16.
The reason for the close score despite the domination was the "close to the vest" style of play the Jaguars implemented. Running the ball twice as much as you throw is great if you're dominating in the red zone. It shortens the game and gives your opponents less possessions. This is the game plan that the Jaguars have employed in recent years against Indianapolis' potent offense, and they usually play the Colts well- and usually come away with close losses.
"It comes down to time of possession and when you play Jacksonville, you know that's the time you're battling against, Titans head coach Mike Munchak said. "They are going to take three downs to get ten yards quite a bit."
When teams eat clock and try to methodically go down the football field it limits not only the opponents possessions, but your own. One big mistake, such as a turnover (the Jaguars lost a fumbled snap), a special teams error (either a fumble or big return allowed) or a broken coverage defensively (note the Titans 80-yard touchdown to Kenny Britt) and a team that is kicking field goals instead of extra points can lose a game that they dominate.
"We had opportunities there but with the untimely penalties before the half, that could have given us a chance to get three or seven (points) and making it a lot closer; even though statistically, we should have been blown out of the game at halftime," the Titans rookie head coach reflected.
To put it simply, if the Jaguars are going to continue to play this grind the clock out, close to the vest style of play, they have to be close to perfect and the defense can't have an off day. A zero percent red zone efficiency simply will not work.
"I feel like we left a lot of points out there and I think the rest of the offense feels that way," Thomas said.
Part of the ultra-conservative game plan could have been the unfamiliarity with quarterback Luke McCown in games that actually count. Although Luke has been the best signal caller in Jaguars camp for the last two seasons, he hadn't started a game since 2007 before Sunday.
Another reason the Jaguars went so run-heavy was due to the Titans missing a pair of starters on their defensive line in Jason Jones and Derrick Morgan.
"That was part of the game plan," Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. "Jason Jones is a great player and they didn't have him today so we tried to exploit some of those things, but we're playing without a starting right tackle and a rookie at left guard, so they were looking at things to exploit themselves."
Moving forward the Jaguars will have to expand the offensive if they're going to compete with the more explosive teams in a league that's weighted toward the passing game. Teams will stack up to stop the rushing attack and force Luke McCown and a set of unproven receivers to beat them. It will be up to those guys to do so and if they can't, the Jaguars must evaluate those positions.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and the host of "The Sports Crunch" on the Aquarius 7 Broadcasting Network (national), and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie
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