All Joshua Dobbs had to do was protect the football.
He failed miserably.
The journeyman quarterback who was signed off Detroit’s practice squad just a few weeks ago turned the ball over twice in the second half Saturday night, handing Jacksonville 10 points in a 20-16 loss that could haunt the Tennessee Titans for the next eight months.
The Titans had done everything they needed to do to beat the Jaguars in a winner-take-all game to decide the AFC South. Derrick Henry was effective running the ball, helping Tennessee control the clock for 36 minutes. The defense held Jacksonville to 222 yards, including 19 yards rushing.
Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars had done nothing down the stretch, losing a yard on nine plays in the fourth quarter.
It was Tennessee’s game to win. It was Tennessee’s division to clinch for the third time in as many years.
And then Dobbs turned the ball over twice. He badly underthrew a deep pass to Treylon Burks that resulted in an interception and a field goal. And then he fumbled on a sack, which Josh Allen scooped up and returned 37 yards for the go-ahead score.
“Hats off to them for making a great play in a big moment of the game,” Dobbs said.
Dobbs felt like his arm was going forward on the fumble, although officials reviewed the play and confirmed Allen’s touchdown.
“When you throw the ball and the ball goes forward after the guy hits you, it feels like – I’m a physics guy – so it’s pretty simple that it’s going forward,” Dobbs said. “When you’re on road, they do a great job of not showing replays of big plays. I’ll check it out on film, but it was definitely a tough one.”
To be fair, Dobbs probably shouldn’t have been in this position. With Ryan Tannehill (ankle) out for the season and rookie Malik Willis struggling in his place, the Titans turned to Dobbs to try to get them out of their late-season funk.
He played well last week against Dallas and even looked poised in the first half against Jacksonville. But his night unraveled late, and Tennessee (7-10) lost its seventh consecutive game.
“Nobody wants to finish how we did,” said Henry, who finished with 109 yards on 30 carries. “That’s never the plan, never the goal. Like I said, stuff happens, adversity happens.
“We wanted to win the division and have a great record, yeah, but it didn’t happen this year. All you can do is go back to work and be thankful for the journey and everybody in their efforts and look forward.”
The Titans rested several starters last week and essentially created a 10-day break to get healthy. They returned to their bruising brand of football and looked like they would pull an improbable turnaround — until Dobbs’ final turnover changed the game.
“We just got on a (crappy) streak and couldn’t get off it,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “Couldn’t make the plays when we needed to. We couldn’t be consistent enough when we needed to, and it showed up again.”
Dobbs completed 20 of 29 passes for 179 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran five times for 32 yards.
“I’m proud of my effort,” he said.