Texas

Jags return fumble for TD, defeat Titans for AFC South title

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The Jacksonville Jaguars became AFC South champions for the first time in five years, the title secured by a 20-16 victory over rival Tennessee on Saturday night in a game that included Josh Allen’s 37-yard fumble returns a touchdown with 2:51 left.

Rashawn Jenkins forced Josh Dobbs to fumble the ball, while Allen picked up the bouncing ball and ran the other way, untouched, to keep the lead in the regular season finals for both teams.

Dobbs again erred in subsequent possession, and the Jaguars (9-8) began to celebrate their most significant regular season win in franchise history.

“It was one of those games where our defense had to win for us,” Jaguars defenseman Trevor Lawrence said. “We guys on offense are a bit frustrated because we missed a lot. But in these games you just need to win. Our defense picked us up today. They played great.”

Jacksonville finished 4th in the conference playoffs and will host the Los Angeles Chargers or Baltimore next weekend in the wild-card round.

This is the 18th time in the past 20 seasons that at least one NFL team has won its division after finishing last or last in the previous year.

Jacksonville ended the regular season with their fifth straight win and became the fifth team in NFL history to reach the playoffs with a five-game losing streak and a five-game winning streak in the same season.

“We just kept believing,” Lawrence said. “No one has ever lost faith. Everyone believed in each other. We never started pointing fingers. We lost five games in a row and got stronger.”

Tennessee (7-10) have lost their last seven games and almost everyone has written them off ahead of Saturday’s final.

The Titans took several breaks in the starting lineup last week and essentially created a 10-day break to recuperate. They returned to their brutal football and looked like they were about to take an incredible turn – until the departure of Dobbs changed the game.

The Jaguars were 6 1/2 favorites. Bookmaker FanDueland an almost sold-out crowd gathered to witness what many thought was more of a coronation than of nail-biting scratches and claws.

The Titans didn’t do anything outstanding. With quarterback Ryan Tannehill (ankle) out for the season, they relied on Dobbs—an aerospace engineer who bounced around the league—to handle the ball nimbly and Derrick Henry to get through tough yards. And they relied on protection that was reliable throughout the year.

It worked for 37 minutes – and then fell apart.

Henry finished with 109 yards on 30 carries. Dobbs completed 20 of 29 passes for 179 yards with touchdowns, interceptions, and fumbles.

Lawrence completed 20 of 32 passes for 212 yards with touchdowns and fumbles. Lawrence had two potential touchdowns in the second half. He beat Zay Jones in the end zone and got ahead of Christian Kirk.

HARD HAND

Henry added another impressive hard hand to his highlight filled with them. He dropped Jenkins to the ground in the second quarter to limit a 14-yard lead, sparking a flurry of social media posts about the move.

Henry, who grew up outside of Jacksonville in Julie, finished the first half with 71 yards on the ground, but added just 38 yards after the break.

In his third season, he ran for at least 1,500 yards and is now behind only Barry Sanders (five), Walter Payton (four), Egerrin James (four) and Eric Dickerson (four). He also became the fourth runner to rush for 4,000 or more yards against a single division since the eight division format began in 2002, joining Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Frank Gore.

A MEMORABLE MOMENT

Both teams gathered in center field before the game to pray, some of them still wearing Buffalo’s Demar Hamlin jerseys. Tennessee linebacker Rashad Weaver, a college teammate with Hamlin at Pitt, wore Hamlin’s number 3 on a black eye.

Weaver later recovered Lawrence’s fumble on misguided trick play in the first half.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL.

Copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.



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