NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After making it to the AFC Championship Game last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars, featuring a power running game and vaunted defense, were considered the bully of the AFC South.
Tennessee Titans All-Pro safety Kevin Byard doesn't view Jacksonville as the bully, but he said it was essential to fight the Jaguars like they were the bully by taking it to them early and not letting up.
With that approach, the Titans beat the Jaguars for the third consecutive time Sunday -- this one a physical 9-6 brawl in Jacksonville -- and made a statement in the process.
"All week we heard about how good their defense was and how many plays they make, but we have a good defense, too," said Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who had a team-high 12 tackles (one for a loss), one sack and a pass breakup. "We know how to play football and put it together to keep these guys out of the end zone."
It wasn't a pretty victory, but it was the kind of physical battle the Titans are working to make their trademark. Ball control on offense condensed the game after they got out to an early lead. Stingy defense was the formula for protecting the win.
Jacksonville gained just 232 yards, didn't have a rusher or receiver with more than 46 yards and didn't score a touchdown. The Jaguars didn't even penetrate the Titans' 25. Byard said that's the expectation in Nashville now.
Beating the Jaguars at their own game made it sweeter.
"If you want to beat Jacksonville, play them hard in the first quarter and see what happens towards the end of the game," Byard said. "You have to keep pounding them and don't give up. Don't worry about the hype and all of that."
Byard was referring to national pundits ranking the Jaguars among the top teams in the NFL following a 2-0 start that included an impressive 31-20 win against the New England Patriots in Week 2.
The Titans were determined to create some hype of their own in Jacksonville.
"That was the talk all week, going in and setting the tone by playing better than their defense," Byard said. "You hear talk about Houston [Texans] being picked atop of the division. There's a bunch of teams. We have been at the bottom all year, and we are at the top right now, so we are going to try and keep it like that.
"This is another division game that we needed. We weren't looking at it like it's big Jacksonville. It's the Jacksonville Jaguars. We play them every year, twice a year. We ain't scared of nobody."
Finding a way to pull out close games will go a long way toward producing confidence for the Titans, who beat Houston 20-17 in Week 2 and have some early momentum with two crucial division victories.
Head coach Mike Vrabel has the Titans believing in his attacking, hard-nosed mindset with a defense that swarms to the ball. Few people picked Tennessee to beat the Jaguars, and the Titans used the underdog label for motivation, but they feel Sunday's win has turned them into a different kind of dog.
"There's an underdog mentality," Byard said. "But I feel like we are big dogs right now. We might be an underdog mentality to the media, but we have a big-dog mentality here, and we will keep playing like that."