JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jack Del Rio was pumping his fist and screaming kudos to his players as the Jacksonville Jaguars jogged toward the locker room with a 14-3 lead.
It was a premature celebration, especially against the league’s only unbeaten team.
Behind, ahead. Home, away. Run, pass. Backups, starters. No matter the situation, the Tennessee Titans keep finding ways to win — and staying undefeated.
Kerry Collins threw three touchdown passes, Albert Haynesworth dominated defensively again and the Titans improved to 10-0 with a 24-14 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday.
Tennessee overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit, got solid play from third-string cornerback Chris Carr and extended its franchise-record winning streak in the regular season to 13.
“It’s great,” Haynesworth said. “People keep counting us out and we like proving the world wrong, I guess.”
The Titans swept the season series against AFC South rival Jacksonville for the third time in seven years and won their seventh consecutive regular-season road game. This one may have been more impressive than any of the others.
After dropping third-down passes and committing costly penalties in the first half, the Titans regrouped at halftime and handed Del Rio the second-worst collapse of his six-year coaching career.
“It’s very frustrating,” Jaguars safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. “We pretty much shut them out the whole first half, came in and felt like we had a lot of momentum going our way and then went back out and gave up a few big plays. That sums it up pretty much. That was horrible.”
The Jaguars (4-6) lost for the fourth time in six games, fell six games behind the Titans and probably ended any chance they had of returning to the postseason.
“We wanted to knock Jacksonville out of contention and out of the playoffs, and we did that,” Haynesworth said.
Collins, Haynesworth and Carr deserve much of the credit.
Collins directed consecutive touchdown drives to open the third quarter, turning an 11-point deficit into a three-point lead.
He sealed the victory with a perfect 38-yard TD pass to Justin Gage with 3:57 remaining. Collins and Gage also hooked up for a 56-yard score in the third period — the only third-down conversion for the Titans. They were 1-of-12 on third down.
“That makes it even worse,” said Jaguars cornerback Drayton Florence, who was beaten on the 56-yarder.
Collins finished 13-of-23 for 230 yards. Gage caught four passes for 147 yards.
Rookie Chris Johnson ran for 64 yards, not nearly the factor he was when these teams met in the season opener. Collins was the difference in the rematch.
“It’s tough for defenses to stop us,” Gage said. “A lot of people say we can’t do this. We can win and we like to prove them wrong.”
Collins found Brandon Jones on a slant route near the goal line to cap the first TD drive. Jones stepped into the end zone for a 13-yard score, flipped the ball to a referee and then dropped to his knees and put both hands behind his helmet — making it look like he was getting arrested.
Not quite. He did get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 15-yard penalty assessed on the kickoff. No worries, though. Tennessee’s defense stiffened again.
The Titans, who sacked David Garrard seven times in the opener and held the Jaguars to a season-low 33 yards rushing, clamped down in the second half.
Garrard had little time, Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew had little room and Jacksonville had little chance of staying out front.
Haynesworth, who had two sacks in the opener, was in the backfield on just about every play and finished with seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Carr was nearly as good off the bench, getting on the field because starter Nick Harper (ankle) was inactive and backup Eric King re-broke the arm he injured last year and missed most of the game.
Garrard tried to pick on Carr, but it backfired. Carr knocked down three passes and had a late interception, a floater Garrard called “a gift there at the end.”
“He didn’t play like a third corner,” Garrard added. “We tried to (pick on him). Whenever you’ve got guys out, you have to do that because they would be starting if they were that good.”
Garrard finished 13-of-30 for 135 yards with the interception and the second-worst passer rating (43.1) in 39 career starts. He was sacked four times, three in the second half.
“They were definitely turning their dials up a little bit and we didn’t match it,” Garrard said. “That’s unfortunate because we had a perfect opportunity. We have to do a lot better than that, especially when the game’s on the line.”
Notes: Jaguars LB Mike Peterson, inactive last week after getting
sent home for insubordination, played mostly on special teams and in a backup role. … Jacksonville set a franchise record with 10 punts. … The Titans also played without defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) and receiver Justin McCareins (concussion).