The fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars deserved to witness a win in person.
After five blowouts in a row to open their home slate, the Jaguars hung one in the W column, besting the Tennessee Titans 24-19.
Led by the hard-nosed play of Chad Henne, the Jacksonville offense had their second-best scoring day of the season, and by far their best offensive game at home.
Henne's output was a far cry from the dink and dunk antics of Blaine Gabbert. He hit 17-of-26 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns and one tipped-ball interception.
He posted better than 10 yards per attempt, aided by a four-catch, 105-yard day from Cecil Shorts. Shorts continued his all-out assault on the 1,000 yard mark by posting a 59-yard catch-and-run for a score and boosting his yearly total to 747 receiving yards. He's now on pace for nearly 1,100 yards.
While the Jaguars' offense put up three touchdowns for just the second time this season, the Jaguars' defense locked down on the Titans whenever they approached the goal line.
Tennessee had little trouble moving the ball against the porous Jacksonville' secondary and out-gained the Jaguars by nearly 40 yards on the day.
Led by Jake Locker, Tennessee moved deep into Jaguars' territory on six separate occasions, but only managed one touchdown and five field-goal attempts. Rob Bironas converted four of them, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Jaguars' touchdowns.
From the earliest moments of the game, Locker fought his accuracy. After the Titan's defense intercepted Henne on the first drive of the game deep in Jaguars' territory, Tennessee went three and out as Locker couldn't find Nate Washington.
Locker would fail on passes of 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-3 (twice), and 3rd-and-4 all on the plus-side of the field.
Further complicating things, Tennessee started many drives deep in their own territory thanks to an outstanding day by Jaguars' rookie punter Bryan Anger. Anger had two punts over 60 yards and one more of 50 yards in the game.
Despite Locker's struggles, Tennessee still had the ball with a chance to win, trailing 21-19 with 3:28 to play in the game at their own 37 yard line. Locker was unable to lead the winning drive, however, as his second-down pass was batted into the air and picked off by Dwight Lowery of Jacksonville.
It was crushing defeat for the Titans, all but ending their already slim playoff hopes. The loss drops them to 4-7, two games back of the Steelers and Bengals. With games still to play against top NFL teams like the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers, it's hard to imagine the Titans even getting to seven wins.
Jacksonville and their fans can take solace in a happy Sunday in a season set adrift in a sea of miserable outings. There's no question the offense performed much better with Henne, offering a glimmer of hope that things are not as bad as they've seemed all year.
While many aspects of the team looked improved with a new quarterback, the offense line remained a pox on Jacksonville's production. Henne was sacked seven times for 40 yards and often had little time to throw.
Despite the lack of protection, the Jaguars still converted seven of 14 third-down attempts on the day in part because of Henne's ability to throw downfield. Two of his biggest plays came on 3rd-and-long, though so did several sacks.
Every game is an audition for Henne, who hopes to convince the franchise that most of the blame for the team's 2-9 record should fall on Gabbert. Should the Jaguars finish the year strong, it could be enough to save Mike Mularkey's job and, by extension, Henne's.
The Jaguars will seek to create their first winning streak of 2012 with the visit Buffalo in Week 13.