I write far less about American Football here than I would like to – mainly because the legal aspects are more abstruse (though one day I will recap the USFL v NFL battles on the 1980’s and their implications for Scottish football should the SPL, SFL and SFA not agree on re-structuring).
Last night’s games threw up some remarkable events – Drew Brees of the Saints passing for over 5,000 yards for the second straight season; Adrian Peterson taking his Vikings single-handedly into the playoffs and falling 9 yards short of beating Eric Dickerson’s “unbeatable” single season rushing record; and Washington beating their arch-rivals, Dallas, to win their division.
But the most remarkable took place in a meaningless game, between two teams who have disappointed this year – the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The season ended with Jacksonville on 6-10 and Tennessee on 2-14. Yesterday showed Jacksonville how best to win – avoid putting your offence on the field at all!
With 3.04 to go in the second quarter the Titans got the ball. They led 14-7 and took over possession on their own 49 yard line.
In the next 29 plays, the Jaguars never put their offence on the field, although their kicking team was on 8 times, and scored 28 points.
The sequence went as follows.
It started so well. Chad Henne found Keith Toston for a 21 yard gain to the Titans’ 30. On the next play Toston took the ball 9 yards to the 21. The Jaguars rushed to get a play off before the 2 minute warning, but were penalised for an illegal shift, and they were left, with 2 minutes in the half to go, with 2nd down and 5 from the 25 yard line.
Now it went wrong.
Henne threw a short pass for his tight end Marcedes Lewis. However, Tennessee’s rookie linebacker, Zach Brown, stepped up, intercepted, and returned it 79 yards for the TD. After the extra point, it was 14-14 and time for the Titans to kick off.
At first the kickoff return looked fantastic – Jordan Shipley took the ball 5 yards deep in his endzone, and made it all the way to the Titan’s 45, for a 60 yard return. However, there had been a foul on the return, and instead of being in the opposition half with time to take the lead again, the Jags were backed up after the penalty to their own 6 yard line.
There was still 1.36 to go, so Henne came out throwing, hitting Lewis for a 17 yard gain to the 23 and then throwing incomplete deep for Justin Blackmon. On 2nd down Shipley caught a pass for 5 yards.
On 3rd down the Titans’ D went to work, sacking Henne for a 6 yard loss. On came Bryan Anger, the punter. He boomed a kick to the Titans’ 31. Darius Reynaud returned it 69 yards for the TD.
Jaguars 14 – Titans 21.
After another kickoff Henne tried to make something happen before half time, but despite completions to Lewis and Shipley, time expired with the Jags just inside the Titans’ half.
Maybe half-time would help the rattled Jaguars? After all, they were to receive the opening kickoff in the 3rd quarter.
Shipley returned the kickoff to his own 20. From there, after getting to 2nd and 2, the Jags could not make a first down, so Anger came back out to punt.
This time Reynaud returned the ball 81 yards for the TD!
Jags 14 – Titans 28.
By now Rob Bironas, the Titans’ kicker, must have been getting leg cramps, he had been called on so often in so short a time! In any event, he kicked into the end zone, and Richard Murphy took it out to the 22.
Henne had another chance to get his team back in the game. What could go wrong now?
First play of the drive was a 3 yard run. On 2nd down Henne threw a short pass for Toney Clemons. Unfortunately Zach Brown was lurking and intercepted, returning the ball 30 yards for the TD.
After the extra point, Tennessee had scored 28 unanswered points, without running a single play themselves, and in 6.08 of elapsed game time.
Remarkably Henne was intercepted on his next series too, but this time the return was only to the Jags’ 7 yard line, snapping the sequence.
The likelihood is that the Jags’ coaching staff will be dismissed en masse, especially as they were in place when new owner Shahid Khan bought the team at the end of last season. However, such a meltdown has seen coaches sacked before, and especially for volatile ones such as Jerry Jones at Dallas, if such a sequence happened there, the Special Teams and Quarterback coaches might not have got to the end of the game before getting their P45s!
So, a little bit of history in an otherwise meaningless game which the Titans won 38-20. But there were still, officially, 69,143 fans in attendance, making it a sellout. However many clearly came along dressed as empty seats at the end of a disappointing season for the Titans. The ones who were there saw something unique from their own team, and the ultimate in futility from Jacksonville.
Posted by Paul “Too Tall” McConville