JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One word kept being repeated by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive players in the locker room after their 30-9 loss at Tennessee last Thursday night on national television: embarrassed.
How else to describe allowing running back Derrick Henry to rush for a Titans-record 238 yards and four touchdowns at Nissan Stadium? That really doesn't fully capture their ineptitude, but the video clip of Henry's 99-yard TD run in which he stiff-armed three would-be tacklers sure does.
That was ridiculous, demoralizing, and just plain awful -- and it was made even worse by the fact that the defense had one of its best performances in franchise history four days earlier.
That kind of extreme difference in such a short period of time, as well as some interesting and brutally honest comments from safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback A.J. Bouye after the loss, certainly puts coordinator Todd Wash's job in jeopardy.
It was a week ago that Wash and the defense were coming off one of the most dominating days in franchise history in a 6-0 victory against Indianapolis at TIAA Bank Field. The Jaguars sacked Andrew Luck three times, forced two turnovers and stopped the Colts three times on fourth down. It also was the first time Luck had been shut out in his college or pro career.
That helped the Jaguars snap a seven-game losing streak and gave Wash some vindication after the defense gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns to Pittsburgh and 24 points to Buffalo, which entered the game as the league's lowest-scoring team at the time (13.7 PPG), over the previous two weeks.
But Thursday night's debacle wiped that good will away. Henry's longest run of the season entering the game was 16 yards, but he had touchdown runs of 16, 54 and, of course, the 99-yarder. Bouye, linebacker Leon Jacobs, and linebacker Myles Jack all had chances to tackle Henry, but the 247-pounder threw them off.
Henry ended up averaging 14.0 yards per carry.
"I don't have the answers, man," Gipson said about Henry's dominating performance. "I don't think nobody had the answers. I don't think the coaches have the answers. I truly don't know. At the end of the day you've got to tip your hats off to a guy that ran for that many yards.
"I've never been part of nothing like that. It was like little league out there. Every time he touched the ball he was scoring, it felt like."
You can't blame missed tackles -- especially on the 99-yard TD run -- on Wash or any of the other assistant coaches. That's 100 percent on the players. The fact Gipson said he didn't think the coaches had an answer is concerning.
So is this quote from Bouye:
"It just seems like everybody is attacking our [defensive] scheme or knows how to attack our scheme," Bouye told the Times-Union after the game. "We're definitely not going to say Wash is putting us in a bad spot, at the end of the day. Just certain plays we seen out there today off of motions, I already told myself they knew what we [were] in and they [were] able to break on runs and get one-on-one with our corners. It sucks, man."
It's not a good sign for Wash, who is in his third season as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator. If he is fired after the season, it will be a quick fall from where he stood after last season. The 2017 Jaguars defense was one of the league's best, finishing second in sacks (55), turnovers (33), and scoring and leading the NFL in pass defense. Seven players were named to the Pro Bowl and cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Calais Campbell were first-team All-Pros.
The defense hasn't been nearly as dominant this season. The Jaguars aren't pressuring the quarterback (25 sacks) or forcing turnovers (14) at the same rate they did last season, and they've had multiple games with egregious coverage breakdowns.
However, they still rank in the top 10 in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense -- but Thursday's embarrassing performance on national television doesn't bode well for Wash returning in 2019.