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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles revived a Jacksonville offense that had been stagnant for four games, leading the Jaguars on back-to-back touchdown drives for a 14-10 lead over the Tennessee Titans after three quarters Thursday night.
The Jaguars had only 16 yards of offense until Bortles led them on an 80-yard drive at the end of the first half, ending it with a 1-yard pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis in the left corner of the end zone.
The Jaguars got the ball to start the second half, and Bortles found Marquise Lee on a 34-yard catch-and-run on third-and 7. After two more completions, Jacksonville went to some trickery with a backward to Cecil Shorts III, who then threw across the field to Jordan Todman to the 9.
It looked like Jacksonville would have to settle for a tying field when Bortles was flushed from the pocket and scrambled down the sideline to the 2 on third-and-goal. But linebacker Avery Williamson was called for holding Lewis away from the play, giving the Jaguars new life. Toby Gerhart punched it in from the 1 on the next play.
The turnaround for the Jaguars was surprising. Losers of seven of their last eight games, the Jaguars had only two offensive touchdowns in their previous 46 drives over four games and nearly two quarters, and just like that, Bortles took them down the field for touchdowns on consecutive drives.
That was a bright spot in a game otherwise devoid of them.
For the final NFL game on Thursday night this year, about the only thing at stake for the 2-12 teams in the AFC South was the inside track for the No. 1 pick in the draft, and likely a slightly easier schedule. In this case, the loser had more to gain.
The Titans were led by third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, replacing Zack Mellenberger and his injured right shoulder. Whitehurst couldn't miss at the start, and for the first time this year, the Titans scored a touchdown on their opening possession.
Whitehurst completed all six of his passes and capped an 84-yard drive on the Titans' first possession with an 8-yard scoring pass to Jacksonville native Leon Washington. It was the first time this year the Jaguars had given up a touchdown on the opening drive. Houston now is the only team with that distinction.
The Titans smartly made sure their picked up more points midway through the second quarter. On third-and-18, Whitehurst found Kendall Wright in soft coverage over the middle for a 13-yard gain that enabled Ryan Succop to attempt a 50-yard field goal. It cleared the cross bar with a few yards to spare.
At that point, the Titans had a 179-16 advantage in yards, and held the ball for 13 more minutes. The Jaguars had only one first down, and their longest play from scrimmage was a 7-yard swing pass to Toby Gerhart on the second play of their opening possession.
Titans defensive coordinator Ray Hunter was on the sidelines calling plays for the first time, instead of in the booth.
Jacksonville's offensive line failed to touch Derrick Morgan, who blasted Bortles and forced a fumble that Gerhart recovered. Bortles was sacked again for the 64th time this year, breaking the Jaguars' record set in 2001.
Bortles, as usual, was at his best during the two-minute warning. Along with a key completion to Lee, along with a facemask penalty when Lee spun away from the sideline, Bortles scrambled for 9 yards and a first down to the 13, stumbling as he kept his balance to get the extra yardage.
The Titans managed only 47 yards and three first downs in the third quarter.
Whitehurst was 14 of 19 for 168 yards, while Bortles was 12 of 21 for 109 yards. Neither team has turned the ball over.
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