Chad Henne has given fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars something they dearly needed: Hope.
With a 24-19 win over their division rivals the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville finally got a much-needed home victory.
A second look at the tape reveals how they did it, and just what it means for both teams.
The Real Story
Before the Henne train gets too far down the tracks, it's important to acknowledge that while the offense performed better, Jacksonville essentially put up 21 points (with three more gifted to them by the defense), still had seven sacks and made a living converting 3rd-and-short situations.
The Jaguars played well on defense in the red zone, but Tennessee had multiple passes ruled incomplete by inches on the boundaries.
With another three inches here or there, the Titans would have won this game by multiple scores.
Jacksonville got the breaks, and they certainly deserved them, but no one should pretend this game portends a sea-change for Jacksonville's fortunes.
Henne played better against Tennessee than Gabbert did at any point in the season, but neither did he prove he's any kind of answer at quarterback. All his play against the Titans did was illustrate that Gabbert was the reason the offense was moribund for most of the year.
Whether or not Henne wins the starting job long-term or not, Jacksonville still has a serious need at quarterback.
From a Titans' perspective, this was exactly the kind of effort we've come to expect from them. The team is woefully inconsistent and seemingly makes all the little mistakes necessary to turn a victory into a loss.
On any of three or four different catches, a simple toe tap could have saved the day for Tennessee.
As in most cases for the Titans in 2012, they just couldn't execute.
Heene and Shorts will get the lion's share of the credit for Jacksonville, but don't forget about Justin Blackmon. The biggest difference between Henne's and Gabbert's play has been the emergence of the rookie.
Blackmon had five catches and a touchdown and looked every bit the big, physical wideout he was drafted to be.
Bryan Anger was very effective punting with multiple big kicks.
For the Titans, Zach Brown had a nice effort with two sacks and a game-high nine tackles.
Kendall Wright made some nice plays with his legs as well.
Nate Washington struggled on multiple plays, the most noteworthy of which will be discussed below.
Jordan Babineaux was an apocalypse at safety, eventually getting pulled after he allowed a long touchdown to Shorts.
The Jaguars' line, especially the tackles, struggled to keep Henne upright. Meanwhile, the interior of the line repeatedly failed in run blocking.
It was an oh-so-close kind of day for the Titans.
On 3rd-and-3 from the Jaguars' 24, Jake Locker hit Nate Washington for a first down.
Mike Mularkey challenged the call, arguing that Washington failed to get his second foot down.
Despite plenty of room on the sideline, the replay showed that Washington's toes did indeed hit the chalk. The first down was overturned.
Rob Bironas promptly missed a 42-yard field goal.
It would be easy to pick Locker apart, but this scene was repeated several times throughout the day as Titans' wideouts bobbled catches and failed to get their tip toes in play multiple times.
Mularkey deserves a lot of credit for a good call to be aggressive near the end of the first half. Even though the Jaguars failed to convert on 4th-and-3 from the 45, and the Titans later turned that miss into three points, it was still the right call.
Mike Munchak, on the other hand, repeatedly took field goals instead of going for it on short yardage.
He kicked on 4th-and-2 and 4th-and-3 in the first half, netting three points for his efforts. Had the Titans converted even one of those two plays and gone on to score a touchdown, the final outcome may have been different.
Keep An Eye On...
Where do these two teams go from here?
The Jaguars have four mediocre teams on their schedule over the final five games, so a strong finish could well signal that by benching Gabbert, they've solved their biggest barrier to winning.
If they can't win even two of those games, however, it will likely be lights out for everyone associated with the front office and coaching staff.
The Titans still cling to life support thanks to the rapidly deteriorating Steelers.
Adams is a Houston resident and won't take kindly to a thrashing by the Texans.
Munchak and his staff may need a big day in Week 13 if they hope to keep their jobs in 2013.
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