DeMarco Murray and Marcus Mariota starred as the Tennessee Titans accounted for the Jacksonville Jaguars 36-22 in NFL action on Thursday.
Having trailed 27-0 at half-time, the Jaguars were completely dominated by the Titans, who evened their record at 4-4 while Jacksonville fell to 2-5.
The 27 first-half points were the second-most allowed in a half by the Jaguars in team history, as pressure mounts on head coach Gus Bradley, who is now 14-41 in more than seasons in Jacksonville.
Even after a foot injury caused Murray to head to the locker room early in the first half, he returned in the third quarter and finished with 123 yards on 21 carries. He accounted for 24 yards on Tennessee's first series of the second half. That possession ended with a four-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews in response to an 11-play, 75-yard drive to get the Jaguars on the board.
The Jaguars had a hard time with Tennessee's offense. Even on a third-and-13 from their own three-yard line, Murray ripped a 19-yard run off the right side to pick up a first down and keep the drive alive. The Titans eventually went 90 yards on 12 plays for a 22-yard Ryan Succop field goal before half-time.
While Murray had a great night, rookie Derrick Henry also turned in a solid performance with 60 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and four receptions for 37 yards.
The Titans defense, led by co-ordinator Dick LeBeau, harassed Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles all night. Bortles threw for 337 yards, two-thirds of which came in the second half, and three touchdowns on 33-of-54 passing. Bortles had zero help from the Jaguars ground game with just 48 yards, including 22 from the third-year quarterback.
While Bortles struggled, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was near flawless. Mariota went 18 of 22 for 270 yards and two touchdowns, including a perfectly placed 36-yard teardrop to Kendall Wright, who finished with four receptions for 84 yards.
Murray set the tone early with 37 yards in the first quarter and scoring from 14 yards out in the second to give the Titans a 24-0 lead. His lone season in Philadelphia last year was a bust, but he seems to have found the same groove in Tennessee that helped him lead the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards in 2014 while with the Dallas Cowboys. While Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Arizona's David Johnson will play Sunday, Murray's performance on Thursday gave him 756 yards to take over as the NFL's rushing leader.
"A lot of the credit goes to [the offensive line]," Mariota told NFL Network. "They established the line of scrimmage and in pass protection, did a great job of handling their blitzes to give us time and gave us opportunities to make plays downfield."
BRADLEY, BORTLES BUSTED
It is not looking good for Bradley, whose job security was already in doubt. Even more disappointing for Jacksonville was the fact that Tennessee were playing without injured cornerback Perrish Cox and safety Rashad Johnson. Despite the two starters out in the Titans secondary, Bortles - who is looking more and more like a first-round bust - could not muster any offense because of the pressure provided by Tennessee's front seven.
The Titans have bought into LeBeau's system and the mindset of head coach Mike Mularkey. They sit just half a game back of the Houston Texans, who play host to the Detroit Lions in the AFC South on Sunday.