The Jacksonville Jaguars trudged into the locker room one by one, and before coach Doug Marrone started to address the team, a few players chimed in.
They were defensive guys. They were being positive, too.
After a 9-6 loss to AFC South rival Tennessee in which Jacksonville’s offense was downright offensive, the Jaguars insisted there was no finger-pointing, back-biting or name-calling.
“We came back in the locker room and guys expressed emotion,” said linebacker Telvin Smith, adding that a team with Super Bowl expectations was frustrated. “It’s not like guys got quiet. Nobody shied away from it. Things were said.”
Several players said it was a constructive exchange designed to show support for quarterback Blake Bortles and an offense that has been less than impressive in two of three games this season.
“If you look at it, offensively and defensively and special teams, those guys really don’t have the type of guys we have in this locker room,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. “It’s not like we felt like we were the king of the hill, but you’ve got to win the games you’ve got to win. … We know we’re the better team, but this Sunday they were the better team and they won.”
Thanks mostly to Marcus Mariota, a punishing ground attack and a stifling defense.
Mariota directed three scoring drives in relief of Blaine Gabbert, including one in the fourth quarter with “heavy personnel,” and the Titans (2-1) won their third straight in the series.
Tennessee improved to 2-0 against the AFC South and will host defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia on Sunday.
“This is what we are, man,” Titans cornerback Logan Ryan said. “We have a good defense. We can run the ball. We do what Jacksonville does, but we do it better than them.”
Jacksonville (2-1), which fell short in its attempt to start 3-0 for the first time since 2004, will wrap up a three-game homestand next week against the New York Jets.
Tennessee finished with 233 yards, but grinded out 150 on the ground, played mistake-free football and let the defense do most of the heavy lifting.
“We’re not afraid of anyone,” Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “We’re going to play as if we belong anywhere. People will count us out, but that’s not the case.”
The Jaguars have dropped five of six in the series and failed to score any offensive touchdown against the Titans for the second straight game. They crossed midfield just twice Sunday.
“We killed ourselves,” Bortles said. “Stupid penalties, drops, missed throws. We’ve got to not hurt ourselves, especially the way our defense is and the way we play. We’ve got to score one touchdown to win the game. To go out there and score six points in four quarters, that’s bad as an offense.”
Here are some other things we learned about the Titans and Jaguars:
Mariota got a game ball for his gutsy performance.
After sitting out last week’s victory against Houston because of an elbow injury sustained in the season opener, Mariota was forced onto the field in the first quarter to replace Gabbert (concussion).
“He was fantastic,” first-year coach Mike Vrabel said. “He cares about this team immensely. He wants what’s best for this team. You saw him come in there, get us some first downs and give us a spark.”
Mariota wore a partial glove on his injured right hand and did just enough to upset the Jaguars. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 100 yards and ran for 51 more, including a 15-yard gain on a third-and-1 play late that allowed the Titans to milk the clock.
The Jaguars finished with 232 yards and 12 first downs while playing without running back Leonard Fournette, left tackle Cam Robinson and right guard A.J. Cann. Fournette missed his second straight game with a strained right hamstring. Robinson was lost for the season last week, and Cann sat out with a triceps injury.
“It’s tough anytime you don’t have your guys out there,” Bortles said. “It is difficult when you are playing with guys that aren’t necessarily in the rotation all the time.”
Marrone’s decision to try a fake punt early in the game proved costly.
Corey Grant was stopped on the fourth-and-4 play, giving Tennessee the ball near midfield and leading to Ryan Succop’s first field goal.
“I always regret decisions that don’t work,” Marrone said. “I just wanted to be aggressive early and had the look.”