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Titans Beat Jaguars, Punch Ticket to Playoffs

Posted Dec 31, 2017

The Titans made good on their “Win and We’re In” predicament with a 15-10 win over the Jaguars, punching their ticket into the postseason for the first time since 2008.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When it was over, in the moments after the Titans had secured the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2008, defensive lineman Jurrell Casey had to fight his emotions.

A Titan since 2011, Casey had waited his entire career for a moment like this.

“It was super emotional,” Casey said. “I definitely wanted to cry a little bit after the game, and let the emotions flow. But I held it in. I couldn’t let the people see me cry.”

So instead, the Titans celebrated after their 15-10, playoff-clinching win over the Jaguars.

But they know there’s work to be done: The Titans face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium next Saturday at 3:35 p.m. in the first round of the playoffs.

“I am happy,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “At the end of the day, we got it done. But we can’t dwell on this, because we have a harder team next week we are going to play.

“So I’m not celebrating big on this -- we got it done, and don’t get me wrong, I’m geeked. But we have another game to play. Just getting in (the playoffs) is not the ultimate goal. Now the hard part starts.”

Yes, the Titans made good on their “Win and We’re In” predicament on Sunday, punching their ticket into the postseason for the first time since the 2008 season.

The Titans finished the regular season with a 9-7 record, and finished with a 5-1 mark in the AFC South, the best mark against the division since in 2002. The Titans swept the Jaguars, the division champs, while outscoring them 52-26 in the two games combined.

It came on a record-setting day. Temperature at kickoff was 23 degrees, with a wind chill of 16 degrees. The kickoff temperature set the record for the coldest game in Nissan Stadium history, breaking the previous record of 25 degrees for the Titans-Steelers game in 2014.

But the Titans weathered the weather, and won, before a bundled up, fired up crowd on New Year’s Eve.

“This is for Nashville,’’ said Titans safety Kevin Byard, who had two interceptions, including the clincher with 10 seconds left. “This is for the city.”

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 12-of-21 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown in the game. Mariota’s biggest play of the game came late on a third-and-five run, when he stiff-armed a defender and got the first down on a 13-yard run in the closing minutes, which allowed the Titans to run the clock down to seconds.

“I kind of understood the situation, and wanted to make a play for the guys,” Mariota said. “And I was able to do it.”

The defense forced turnovers, including Byard’s late INT of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, and made plays throughout for the Titans.

On Sunday, the Titans played with a refuse-to-lose mentality on defense. The Titans kept the Jaguars offense out of the end zone, and forced turnovers. Jurrell Casey and Brian Orakpo had key sacks.

“We refused to go home,” Orakpo said. “I didn’t want to be on a Southwest flight tomorrow headed back to Texas, talking about “What if?”. We had the opportunity, and we wanted to seize the moment.”

The Titans took a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 66-yard pass from Mariota to running back Derrick Henry. On the play, Henry caught a screen pass, and picked up blocks from offensive linemen Quinton Spain and Ben Jones before racing into the open field, where he outraced Jaguars defenders to the end zone. But the extra point was blocked.

The Jaguars cut the lead to 6-3 on a 41-yard field goal by kicker Josh Lambo with 10:14 left in the second quarter.

The Titans took the lead 9-3 on a 25-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop. The play was set up by tight end Phillip Supernaw’s fumble recovery on a muffed punt by the Jaguars.

The Titans then stretched the lead to 12-3 on Succop’s 39-yard field goal. It was set up by rookie Adoree’ Jackson’s forced fumble, which was recovered by rookie linebacker Jayon Brown.

In the third quarter, the Titans extended their lead to 15-3 on a 38-yard field goal by Succop.

Disaster struck early in the fourth quarter when Mariota and Henry collided in the backfield, and the ball popped loose. Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue picked up the loose ball and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown, and suddenly it was 15-10.

But the Titans held on by making winning plays late. Now, the Titans will play in the opening round of the playoffs.

“Very happy for our football team, very happy for our fans,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “They’ve stuck with us for the four the years I’ve been here, they’ve been unbelievable. To trust us and come back and help us win a game we needed to win.

“I’ll say this about our team, I was not surprised by the effort, that’s who they are. They play that way every week and it’s why we had a chance to win every week, and they know that. It was outstanding on all their parts.