The Tennessee Titans used a rejuvenated ground game to help them win their first contest in a month.
A matchup against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars and their dreadful run defense could help them climb into the playoff conversation.
Tennessee tries to move over .500 Sunday against the visiting Jaguars, who have yet another obstacle to overcome with Justin Blackmon suspended again.
The Titans (4-4) ended a three-game losing streak with a needed 28-21 win at St. Louis last Sunday. Chris Johnson, averaging a career-low 3.7 yards per carry, turned in a vintage performance with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns as Tennessee compiled a season-high 198 yards on the ground.
The Titans averaged 80.3 run yards during their skid after averaging 119.8 yards on the ground in their first four.
"That's our formula to win. The running game really is what made it happen," coach Mike Munchak said. "Any offense wants to be able to do that. If we can control the line of scrimmage, get the running game going like that, it just opens up a lot of things."
Sitting just outside the AFC wild-card picture, the Titans are two games behind South-leading Indianapolis. They host the Colts in what sets up as a crucial matchup in Week 11 following this contest.
"This is the meat of the deal with two division games in 10 days," Munchak said. "You win the next one then the next one becomes an even bigger game. We know we have to make our move, and (last Sunday) was part of that. We needed that in a big way, and we got it. Now it's Jacksonville."
The Titans have to like their chances of keeping things going against the Jaguars (0-8), who have surrendered an NFL-worst 161.8 rushing yards per contest and league-high 13 rushing TDs.
Jacksonville, giving up a league-high 33.0 points per game, is also last with an average of 10.8 points. Things aren't about to get any easier without Blackmon, who was suspended indefinitely for his latest violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy last Friday, his third offense in roughly 18 months.
The second-year wideout hauled in 29 catches for 415 yards and a touchdown during a four-game stretch after serving a four-game suspension to open the year. Blackmon will be eligible to apply for reinstatement prior to the start of the 2014 season.
"It was disappointing ... for him and for our team to find out the information," coach Gus Bradley said. "I think for me right now, the best thing for us and our organization is we're focusing on our team and the tasks that we have in front of us."
Off to their worst start in franchise history, the Jaguars haven't played since a 42-10 rout at the hands of San Francisco in London on Oct. 27. Maurice Jones-Drew compiled a season-high 122 yards from scrimmage but Jacksonville was gashed for 221 on the ground.
"We really need to take a look at it, whether it's missed tackles, missed assignments, or execution," Bradley said. "For whatever reason, we did not play things correctly and we need to find out why."
While things haven't gone their way, the Jaguars come out of their bye with a surprising sense of optimism.
"Hopefully, we got our rest and time away," quarterback Chad Henne told the team's official website. "Now, it's a new season. We'll try to treat it one game at a time and hopefully, we'll start out with a win.
"The guys are still hungry. We have eight games left. You can go 8-8 or you can go the other way and go 0-8. ... If we can take care of what we need to take care of, who knows what can happen."
Henne will likely need to step up if Jacksonville hopes to get on track. The sixth-year quarterback has averaged 265.0 yards while throwing two touchdowns and five interceptions in five starts.
Henne also had a rough time during his last visit to Tennessee, throwing three interceptions - two of which were brought back for touchdowns by linebacker Zach Brown - in a 38-20 loss Dec. 30. Tennessee has taken four of five from the Jaguars at home.
Jacksonville has lost 13 straight and 20 of 21 dating to last season, with its lone win coming 24-19 over the Titans on Nov. 25.
The Associated Press News Service
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