JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A game that had much fanfare on the matchup between running backs Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew hinged largely on the play of backup quarterbacks Monday night in Jacksonville.
Tennessee relied on stable and savvy play of veteran QB Kerry Collins and an opportunistic defense that intercepted Jacksonville backup Trent Edwards twice. The Titans defeated the Jaguars 30-3, winning their second straight for the first time this season.
Collins relieved Vince Young, who left with a sprained knee on Tennessee's second possession, and completed 11 of 16 passes for 110 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bo Scaife.
"It's important to be ready at any time and throughout the week it's important for a backup to pay attention mentally because you don't get any reps in practice," Collins said. "You study the game plan and you do what you have to do and maybe put in a little bit more time because you don't get those reps. When and if it happens and my number is called, I just try and rely on all the experience I've accumulated over the years and try to execute the game plan."
Collins made seven completions on eight third down pass attempts and gained the necessary yardage to extend drives four times in addition to the TD pass to Scaife on third down. Johnson delivered key blocks on blitzing Jaguars multiple times to help shield Collins on third down. The Titans (4-2, 1-0 AFC South) kept the ball 32:45 and won the time of possession statistic for the first time since their season-opening defeat of the Raiders.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said controlling the ball was important to Monday's game plan. His team recorded its fourth win in the past five meetings with Jacksonville and tied the second-highest margin of victory for either team since the Jaguars entered the NFL in 1995 and the Titans were still the Houston Oilers.
"Clearly, our plan during the week, out of respect for their offense, defense and special teams, was to keep their offense off the field and we were able to do that – both the run game and converting third downs tonight," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "The defense and turnovers were certainly the difference in this ball game."
Edwards relieved David Garrard with the Jaguars down 17-0 with 2:09 left in the first half. Garrard was diagnosed with a concussion after taking a hit during a blitz by Will Witherspoon on Jacksonville's previous possession. Jacksonville (3-3, 0-1) claimed Edwards, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 140 yards, off waivers from Buffalo less than three weeks ago.
Young looked sharp early. He completed 3 of 5 passes for 61 yards, leading Tennessee on a six-play, 77-yard drive to start the game. He fumbled a snap on his second series, went down to the ground and tried to make a play happen when Jacksonville defenders converged on him. Young's left knee was on the ground under one defender when another finished the tackle. Young limped off the sideline, was fitted with a brace and examined on the sidelines. He did not return but was walking on his own power.
Fisher described Young as "a little sore still."
"He's got a little knee, a little ankle so we will know more this week," Fisher said. "He could have finished in the shotgun, but mobility was a definite a factor."
Collins, a 16-year veteran, moved into 10th all-time on the NFL's career completions list. Collins has 3,307 career completions for 38,877 yards (12th all-time). Collins entered the game one completion behind Dan Fouts and now trails Joe Montana (3,409 completions) for ninth.
Collins replaced Young in the 2008 season opener against Jacksonville and led Tennessee to a 10-0 start, but the Titans started their 2009 season with six consecutive losses and benched Collins for Young. Monday's win occurred on the one-year anniversary of Collins' most recent start.
"Kerry did a nice job and that is why he is here," Fisher said. "We are very, very fortunate to have two very-talented quarterbacks. One goes down then the other steps up and goes (in the game)."
Running back tally
Johnson rushed 26 times for 111 yards and capped his evening with a 35-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-5 play. Johnson received blocks from Ahmard Hall and Damian Williams and was barely touched when he scampered to the end zone. Sixty-six of Johnson's yards came on seven carries during Tennessee's final touchdown drive.
"I told Coach to put me back in the game," Johnson said. "It's a four-minute offense that we work on in practice and we work to get better at that. When we played Denver, we had a chance to end the game and weren't able to do that, so I feel like we can get better at that."
It was the 20th time in Johnson's three-year career that he's rushed for more than 100 yards and fourth time this season (all Titans wins).
Jones-Drew finished with 57 yards on 17 attempts, and his longest gain was an 11-yard run.
It was a sharp turnaround from the last time the teams met when Johnson and Jones-Drew each had two touchdown runs of more than 50 yards in the only NFL game to ever have four TD runs of more than 50 yards (Nov. 1, 2009).
Second-year pro Javon Ringer added 42 yards on 10 carries for Tennessee, which finished with 153 yards rushing and 171 passing yards. Jacksonville finished with 76 rushing yards and 173 passing yards.
"We have always felt that the team that is able to rush the ball at the end is going to have a chance to win, and we were that team (Monday)," Fisher said. "This is a tough place to play, and we beat another good team. We will have to change some things then there was the injury to Vince (Young) and some other things, but I'm proud of the overall job."
Young, Britt continue streak
Young and receiver Kenny Britt connected on a touchdown pass for the fourth consecutive week. Young hit Britt shy of the goal line, and the second-year pro muscled through an attempted tackle and into the end zone for a 23-yard score.
"You have to go back to our preparation during the week and our execution," Britt said. "We took it from the classroom to the field. We wanted to go out there and play as hard as we could."
The four touchdown grabs are a career high in a season for the 22-year-old receiver. Britt had touchdowns in three consecutive games last season.
Scaife led Titans receivers with four catches for 53 yards, and Williams had career highs of four catches and 48 yards in his second career game.
Defense denies end zone
Tennessee kept an opponent out of the end zone for the first time since Dec. 7, 2008. The near shutout occurred on the one-year anniversary of the Titans' 59-0 loss at New England.
Safety Michael Griffin intercepted Garrard in the first half, rookie cornerback Alterraun Verner intercepted Edwards to start the second half, and nickel back Vincent Fuller yanked a ball from the hands of Tiquan Underwood in the end zone for a touchback with 6:06 left in the game.
"I saw the ball at the last second and just tried to make a play on it," Fuller said. "I was fortunate enough to come up with it."
It was the second interception in as many weeks for Griffin and Verner and the second week in a row the Titans made an interception in the end zone. It was Fuller's first interception of the season. Griffin has three interceptions on the season.
Tennessee also denied Jacksonville from its best shot at the end zone late in the first half when linebacker Stephen Tulloch forced a fumble by Marcedes Lewis at the Jaguars' 10.
The Titans, who entered the game with an NFL-best 22 sacks, were able to down Edwards behind the line of scrimmage twice. Jacob Ford sacked Edwards once, and Jason Babin and David Ball shared the other sack. Babin has six sacks on the season, and Ball has five—career highs for both players.