Minshew Mania is gaining momentum.
Gardner Minshew on Thursday night threw two touchdown passes and should have had a third, while Calais Campbell spearheaded another defensive gem as the Jacksonville Jaguars handled the Tennessee Titans 20-7 in sloppy conditions.
Jacksonville (1-2) ended a four-game losing streak in the American Football Conference South and avoided the franchise’s second 0-3 start in four years.
“This felt good,” Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones said. “We needed this.”
With all eyes on star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who might have played his final game for Jacksonville, Minshew and a second stellar defensive outing in five days captured the spotlight.
A sixth-round draft pick starting his second consecutive game in place of injured Nick Foles (broken collarbone), Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards.
He found James O’Shaughnessy wide open for a 7-yard score, which came one play after Adoree’ Jackson’s muffed punt.
Minshew was more precise with a 22-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark, who was blanketed by Malcolm Butler.
Fans chanted Minshew’s name each time the offense took the field, and fans everywhere adorned fake mustaches and bandanas to mimic his signature look.
Marcus Mariota got no style points in this one. Jacksonville sacked Mariota a whopping nine times, including three by Campbell.
“You seen what the D-line did,” Ramsey said, declining to talk about his potential trade. “Today was their day. Everybody got a piece of it. I was excited to see those guys have a huge game.”
The Jaguars played well enough to win at Houston last week, especially on the defensive side, but came up inches short on a 2-point conversion and lost 13-12.
Ramsey then gut-punched a franchise already reeling from the loss of Foles by requesting a trade hours after the loss to the Texans. He asked to get out following a sideline confrontation with coach Doug Marrone.
Ramsey later insisted he did not want to be a distraction. He was not, at least not on the field.
The Jaguars enjoyed a 14-point lead in the first quarter for the first time since Week 2 of last season against New England and just the third time in the past five seasons.
Ramsey hugged several teammates after the game, but did not say any goodbyes in the locker room.
“He didn’t have to say anything,” Jones said. “He may be going to another team, but no one’s going to be hurt by that. It’s a business decision.”
The Titans (1-2) struggled to play from behind.
With his team trailing 14-0 early in the third, coach Mike Vrabel passed on a short field goal and went for it on fourth-and-6 at the 11. Campbell abused backup guard Jamil Douglas and Mariota had no time to get rid of the ball.
“That’s not how you want to play that football team, from behind,” Vrabel said. “We talked about that. This football team, you don’t want to play from behind. They can really rush the passer.”
Tennessee finally got on the scoreboard with Derrick Henry’s 1-yard plunge early in the fourth.
Henry finished with 44 yards on 17 carries, a far cry from his last game against Jacksonville.
Henry in December last year ran for a franchise-record 238 yards and four touchdowns, including the second 99-yard run in NFL history (Tony Dorsett, 1983).
Jacksonville were not going to let it happen again, stacking the box and doing a much better job tackling the 112kg back.
Even Ramsey got in a couple of shots on the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner.
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