The 2022 season ended in heartbreak for the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans lost a late lead – and eventually the game – in a 20-16 loss to the Jaguars.
“We are fighters, man,” an emotional Jeffery Simmons said in the locker room after the game. “The guys in this locker room, I love them no matter what. I appreciate (my teammates) so much. We’ll find a way next year to be better as a team. We’ll figure it out.”
The Titans (7-10) ended the season on a seven-game losing streak.
As a result of their win, the Jaguars captured the AFC South.
“We are used to putting that hat and t-shirt on,” safety Kevin Byard said. “But it didn’t end that way. It’s a disappointing way to end the year.”
The Jaguars scored a defensive touchdown with 2:51 left to take the lead, and the Titans weren’t able to rally.
On a third-and-six from the 35, Titans quarterback Josh Dobbs was hit from behind and fumbled, and Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen picked it up and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to give Jacksonville the lead.
When the Titans got the ball back, they reached midfield, but couldn’t continue the drive.
A fourth-down pass from Dobbs was short of the first down, and the Jaguars ran out the clock.
“I felt like my arm was moving forward,” Dobbs, who completed 20-of-29 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the contest, said of the late turnover. “When you throw the ball, and the ball goes forward after the guy hits you, it feels like … I’m a physics guy, so it’s pretty simple. But I haven’t seen the (replay), so I don’t know when he hit me in the act of throwing. When you are on the road, they do a great job of not showing replays of big plays. I’ll check it out on film and see, but it was definitely a tough one.”
Titans running back Derrick Henry ran for 109 yards on 30 carries in the loss.
“I told the guys I appreciate their efforts,” Henry said. “We went through some adversity this year, and adversity builds character. … I told (my teammates) whether they’re here or somewhere else next year, we’ll always be family.”
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was gutsy early, and the Titans surged ahead.
In the first quarter, the Titans went for it on fourth-and-three not once, but twice, and converted both times on a 17-play drive that took 9:59 off the clock. The Titans capped off the drive with a 51-yard field goal by kicker Randy Bullock, which made it 3-0 at the 1:23 mark of the first quarter.
The Jaguars went on the move in the second quarter, but a botched pitch from quarterback Trevor Lawrence ended up on the ground, and Titans outside linebacker Rashad Weaver jumped on the loose ball at the 31-yard line.
The Titans then proceeded to stretch their lead to 10-0 on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Dobbs to tight end Chig Okonkwo, who got behind Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun in the end zone. On the prior play, Henry sent Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins flying with his patented stiff-arm.
Momentum shifted with a long kickoff return by Jamal Agnew, which set a quick scoring drive in motion for the Jaguars, who made it 10-7 on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to receiver Christian Kirk.
But the Titans put together another nice scoring drive at the end of the first half, and they capped it off with a 39-yard field goal by Bullock to lead 13-7 at halftime.
Dobbs completed 12-of-15 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in the first half, while Henry carried the ball 17 times for 71 yards.
On their first possession of the third quarter, the Jaguars cut the lead to 13-10 on a Riley Patterson field goal.
The Titans answered back with a scoring drive of their own, and they capped it off with a 41-yard field goal by Bullock to make it 16-10 with 6:02 left in the third quarter.
Another Patterson field goal made it 16-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Then came the painful finish.
“It’s difficult to lose any time in this league,” Vrabel said. “I felt like we were going to win the game. … We played with great effort, and we kept answering. They just made a play there in the end.
“I thought we started the game how we wanted to, but you have to finish better. I was confident that we would, and we didn’t.”