JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP/The Loop) — With slow starts, turnovers, special teams errors and defensive lapses, Tennessee’s problems are evident.
The solutions are much less clear.
The same issues that plagued the Titans in their first three games hampered them again Sunday during a 37-17 loss at Jacksonville. Now, the franchise that started 10-0 in 2008 and earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs has more losses than it did all of last season.
And it’s not going to get any easier for Tennessee (0-4), with games against Indianapolis (4-0) and New England (3-1) up next.
“When you’re in a situation like this, every man has to take it upon himself to figure out what he needs to do,” quarterback Kerry Collins said. “As a team, collectively, we need to come together and not listen to the criticism from the outside and keep believing in what we’re doing.”
Easier said than done, especially since the Titans have shown a penchant for repeating their mistakes this season.
They had two missed field goal attempts and two turnovers in the opener against Pittsburgh. They had countless blown coverages and two turnovers against Houston the following week. They had more special teams woes and four turnovers last week against the New York Jets.
Tennessee also trailed in the first half of all three games.
It was an all-too-familiar feeling against the Jaguars (2-2).
David Garrard threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns, shredding Tennessee’s injury-depleted secondary. Rookie Mike Thomas set up two touchdowns with long returns. His 34-yard punt return set up Maurice Jones-Drew’s 9-yard TD run in the first quarter, and his 42-yard kickoff return set up Garrard’s first TD pass to Mike Sims-Walker in the second.
Jacksonville’s defense caused problems, too.
The unit held Chris Johnson to 83 yards rushing, kept steady pressure on Collins and forced three turnovers. Tennessee’s first eight possessions included four punts, two interceptions and a fumble.
All those gaffes had the Titans trailing 30-3 in the third quarter and searching for answers.
“Being at a loss for words is a good way to put it,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “We’re obviously not playing good football. This is the fourth week, and the last three I used up my excuses for what’s going on.”
The Titans could have had an excuse in this one: They played without cornerback Cortland Finnegan (hamstring) and nickel back Vincent Fuller (forearm). Clearly, the Jaguars took notice.
A team built to run the ball, Jacksonville threw early and often — even without starting tackles Eugene Monroe (illness) and Eben Britton (knee). Garrard dropped back to pass 27 times in the first half, and the Jags called seven running plays.
“We knew they were going to stack the box and try to stop Maurice,” Sims-Walker said. “We just took advantage of that. It’s about time. We knew we were capable of doing it. It’s just time we did it.”
Garrard completed 27 of 37 passes, the latest quarterback to burn the NFL’s 29th-ranked pass defense. Sims-Walker caught seven passes for 91 yards and two scores. He had a 9-yard TD reception in the second quarter and a 15-yarder with 27 seconds remaining in the half that made it 27-3.
It could have been worse for Tennessee, too.
Collins threw an interception on the ensuing possession, and Gerald Alexander returned it to the 26-yard line — well inside kicker Josh Scobee’s range. But Garrard was sacked for an 11-yard loss, and Scobee missed a 55-yarder as time expired.
Collins threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score in the second half, but it was too little, too late.
“We can’t put a finger on what’s wrong and we don’t want to point fingers at each other,” Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse said. “Whatever we’re doing, we’re doing as a team. We’ve been losing together, but we’ve been doing it as a team. There’s a lot of stuff we need to do that we haven’t been doing yet.”
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