The Jaguars had every right to feel good when considering they stopped Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the previous game, but Titans running back Derrick Henry slapped the Jaguars back to reality in emphatic fashion.
Henry exploded for 238 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 17 carries to pace the Titans’ 30-9 win, leaving Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone with a blunt two-word explanation on how he felt after the game.
“Heavily disappointed,” Marrone said, via the Jaguars’ official website.
Henry’s performance, which included a 99-yard touchdown run to tie an NFL record, punctuated a head-scratching season for the Jaguars, a team that entered the 2018 campaign with high hopes after making it to the AFC Championship Game last season.
Making Henry’s effort even more surprising was he went 12 straight games without topping 60 yards rushing, including a 57-yard effort against the Jaguars in Week 3, before Thursday night.
“This was our nationally-televised game, man, and you know I think that was spoken so much this week,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson Jr. said. “And, for us to go out there and play like this with the world watching — I doubt people was watching past halftime, if we’re being honest with ourselves — and, to go out there and play like that is tough.
“It’s tough and it’s frustrating. And, you know, I don’t have the answers, man. I don’t think nobody had the answers. I don’t think the coaches have the answers. I truly don’t know, man.”
Marrone didn’t mince words during his postgame news conference when explaining why the defense struggled to contain Henry, who averaged a healthy 14 yards per carry on the night.
“Well, I think when you go to look at the film, I don’t think you’re going to see the effort,” Marrone said. “You’re going to say, ‘Why you got stiff-armed on the tackle.’
“We just didn’t get him down. I mean, there were guys around him. You see a hit, he goes on, another guy is running, guys running from the other side of the field, guys running from behind. We just didn’t tackle. When you look at the film, that’s what you’re going to see.”
What the rest of the NFL universe observed was a Jacksonville organization drop to 4-9 and clinch a ninth losing campaign out of the past 11 seasons.
The good feelings of the 2017 season are distant memories to what is now a brutal reality for a team mired in mediocrity and eliminated from the postseason with three games left to go.