A Look Around The AFC South

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A Look Around The AFC South: 9.25.18

Colts.com offers a comprehensive look at the latest action around the AFC South Division, courtesy of the Associated Press and presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) is sacked by Tennessee Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Houston Texans

After losing three close games to fall to 0-3 for the first time since 2008, the Houston Texans are pondering all the little things they did wrong that contributed to the defeats.

They've had a few turnovers but possibly more detrimental to their success than that has been the constant smaller mistakes that have kept the team from running the way it should.

As usual, coach Bill O'Brien shouldered the blame for their latest loss, a 27-22 defeat to the Giants which gave them their first win this season.

Though he said it was his fault, he refused to go into details about what he's trying to do better.

"There's a lot of things," he said. "Like I always say to you guys when things don't go well — and they haven't gone well lately — it starts with me. So, I just think there's a lot of different things that I can do to be better. I'm not going to list them all."

Though he took the blame for Houston's failure on Sunday, there are certainly plenty of other factors that have kept the Texans out of the win column. The first and most glaring has been the play of the offensive line.

The unit has allowed quarterback Deshaun Watson to be sacked 10 times and hit many more. The group has also committed an inordinate amount of penalties in the first three games. Though several different players have been penalized, right tackle Julien Davenport has struggled the most in this area and had five penalties on Sunday alone.

He was called for three false start penalties and flagged two other times for holding.

"He's struggling, and we have to work with him to keep getting better, but we're definitely looking at that position," O'Brien said. "He's a good guy. He's going to work hard to get better, but he needs to improve, no doubt."


Jacksonville Jaguars

Up, down. Good, bad. This is nothing new for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Offensive inconsistency has become as much a part of the team's identity as defensive proficiency under coach Doug Marrone. It's Jacksonville's biggest downfall and a main reason why many outsiders refuse to consider the Jaguars (2-1) a legitimate title contender in 2018.

They reached another low Sunday, failing to score an offensive touchdown for the second time in two years, advancing past midfield just twice and losing 9-6 to AFC South rival Tennessee .

Dropped passes, batted balls and penalties were part of the problem. So was Blake Bortles, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 155 yards and was sacked three times.

The lackluster performance came one week after Jacksonville looked unbelievably smooth in a 31-20 victory against New England , a rematch of last season's AFC championship game.

"Is it head-scratching? Yeah, of course," Marrone said. "Obviously, it's not what you expect. ... It's not like it's one thing or one set. It was a combination of really not playing well at all."

The Jaguars will try to bounce back against the New York Jets (1-2) on Sunday, wrapping up a three-game homestand.

"We've got to find out and figure out how we're going to handle it as a team," Bortles said.

Getting running back Leonard Fournette back would help. Fournette missed his second consecutive game with a strained right hamstring. He tweaked it in the season opener at the New York Giants and has missed 10 of 12 quarters.

Fournette is the team's offensive centerpiece, a pounding runner who sets the tone for Marrone's throwback style. The Jags managed to beat the Giants and Patriots without him, but needed a defensive touchdown to upend New York and the best game of Bortles' five-year career to knock off New England.

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Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans have a rookie head coach. They started the season with the longest game in the NFL since the league's merger with the AFL in 1970.

Coaches have mixed and matched players to survive a variety of injuries, including to starting quarterback Marcus Mariota.

And yet three weeks into the season, the Titans sit atop the AFC South as the NFL's first team off to a 2-0 start in a division.

Call it gritty, gutsy or just resourceful, the Titans are finding ways to pull out some big, early victories.

"You build some confidence when you play tight, close games, tough games, division games that are going to be close," coach Mike Vrabel said Monday.

"There's a lot of familiarity amongst opponents. Winning can cure a lot of things, and give you a lot of confidence going into the next week. But, there's a lot of stuff that we can get better at, which is always the case."

At the top of the list is healing up Mariota.

The fourth-year quarterback didn't start because of his injured right elbow that still has him dealing with weakness in his throwing arm and numbness in his ring finger and pinkie.

Mariota led Tennessee to a 9-6 victory over the defending AFC South champion Jaguars using his legs for 51 yards and that arm for 100 more with no completion longer than 22 yards.

"Make no mistake about it, Marcus came in and won the football game," Vrabel said.

"We wouldn't have won the game without Marcus. That was really cool to see, it was cool to see him come in and compete for his team, to win the game. Not only throwing the football where he had to, but making some plays with his legs. It was a great win. We can thank Marcus for that one.


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