This was the Titans team we thought–no, hoped–we would see.
It took some time. It took some patience. It took some more patience.
In the first half, it appeared the game would be a field goal contest.
The Titans went to halftime with a nervous 6-3 lead thanks to kicker Ryan Succop’s two field goals.
They ran the ball 12 times for 58 yards. The Jaguars ran it 20 times for 79 yards. The Titans sacked quarterback Blake Bortles once and intercepted him once. He completed five of 12 passes for 34 yards.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed nine of his 18 passes for 80 yards, but was sacked once and picked off once. Maybe it was going to be won by special team kickers.
The Titans boat-raced the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half with a torrid running game, mixing in some Marcus Mariota runs and passes to send the Titans home with a 37-16 win.
In the process, former Yulee (Fla.) High School star Derrick Henry enjoyed a homecoming like no other in only his second NFL season.
While seven-year veteran DeMarco Murray struggled to shine in the running game with a tender hamstring and playing in humid 95-degree weather, Henry came in and ran with speed and balance for a 6-3, 247-pounder.
Henry marked his claim as the Titans running back of the future, a future that may take place sooner rather than later.
He finished with 92 yards on 14 carries (a 6.6 per carry average) and a touchdown as opposed to only six times for 25 yards in a loss to Oakland.
I don’t know what sermon Titans Coach Mike Mularkey preached to his congregation at halftime, but I suggest he keep it handy from here on out. They looked like another team.
They stuck with their game plan and it eventually paid off.
“The plan never changed,’’ he said.
“They wanted to come out in the second half and make a statement, and I think they did.
“It was important, winning on the road and winning in our division on the road. We haven’t been able to do that,’’ Mularkey added after his team evened out at 1-1.
“Those are the things we’ve got to do every week. We have to beat division teams on the road. We learned that last year.’’
Henry scored the game’s first touchdown, a 17-yard thing of beauty.
If the Titans are to remain in the AFC South chase, they have to not only nail-biter games at home and away, they need to avoid serious injuries at pivotal positions.
Other AFC South opponents have been bitten by injury bugs in the early season.
Houston’s defensive star J.J. Watt has a finger injury that still bothers him. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is still on the sidelines rehabbing shoulder surgery. He may be out for a longer than thought time.
The Titans have dodged major injury bullets to date, but there is no way to forecast the future.
They need to have a repeat performance next Sunday at home when Seattle visits Tune Town.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.