It’s never good when you win the coin toss and defer to the second half, but the opponent returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown. That’s exactly what happened when the Jaguars kicked off against the Rams for the first time in Jacksonville since the second week of the season. Jason Myer’s kick was fielded 3-yards deep in the end zone by Pharoh Cooper who brought it out to the right and seemed to be bottled up by the Jaguars special teams. But Cooper spun out of a tackle attempt by Jarrod Wilson and ran straight down the sideline for a TD for a 7-0 lead.
It’s always good when you score on your first play from scrimmage and that’s exactly what happened with the Jaguars touched the ball. A simple handoff to Leonard Fournette saw him break through the like and outrun everybody for a 75-yard TD to tie the game at seven. Fournette is only the second rookie in NFL history to score a TD in his first six games. It’s also the first time in history that two touchdowns have been scored inside the first 25 seconds of the game. 7-7 and starting over.
A 16-yard punt by Brad Nortman gave the Rams the ball at the Jaguars 45 and after three plays and eight yards the Rams kicked a 56-yard field goal to make it 10-7.
After taking the kickoff, the Jaguars gained chunks of yardage on the ground and through the air, scoring in just four plays on a 22-yard screen to Chris Ivory, taking a 14-10 lead. Gains of 18, 17 and 22 preceded the TD.
This game was nothing if not fun to watch early.
In another unusual twist, the Rams were pushing the Jaguars defensive line around, gaining big yardage with Todd Gurley running the football. That resulted in a LA TD at the end of the first quarter to regain the lead at 17-14.
Neither team was playing inspired football but the Rams were winning the field position battle. Nortman wasn’t having his best game and LA scored their second special teams touchdown of the game near the end of the second quarter, blocking a punt and stepping into the end zone for a 24-14 lead.
A 52-yard field goal attempt by Myers at the end of the half was hooked wide left to leave the Jaguars with a 10-point deficit at halftime.
A recap of the special teams effort in the first half gave the Rams a 17-point advantage, something very few teams in the NFL overcome.
A bunch of punts in the 3rd quarter didn’t amount to much as the Rams were stacking the box and making sure the Jaguars and Fournette didn’t get the running game going. At some point, Blake Bortles will have to be the center of the offensive improvement if the Jaguars are going to win games and be a legitimate contender for the post-season. He did lead the offense with his legs and a couple of nice throws that led to a field goal that brought them within seven at 24-17.
In the 4th quarter, you could call it crunch time, and the Jaguars aren’t a team in 2017 that has been good in this situation in close games. A decent offensive drive was derailed by a Bortles interception thrown in front of Marcedes Lewis who got a hand on it and tipped it to a waiting defender. Lewis was the wrong guy to throw it to in that situation as Bortles had Marqise Lee streaking down the field and the ball was just too far in front of Lewis to make that kind of crossing-the-field catch.
More Gurley right, Gurley left and Gurley up the middle put the Rams in a position to grind the clock and kick a field goal for a two possession, 10-point lead, 27-17.
There was a scare at the four-minute mark as Fournette tweaked his knee and his right ankle making a cut against a Rams defender. It looked serious but the Jaguars said he could return to the game if necessary. But he didn’t return.
It’s somewhat maddening to watch Bortles in the current Jaguars offense. Sometimes he’s solid, taking what the defense gives him and behind the running game, making enough throws to keep the defense honest and the offense moving. Other times he’s tentative in the pocket and just inaccurate enough to not make the play that are there downfield. If the Jaguars are going to be a contender at some point in the season, Blake is going to have to take a quantum leap forward with his decision-making, his mechanics and his accuracy.
Otherwise, the Jaguars will be the up-and-down team they’ve been for the first six games of the year. Put this one on the special teams without question but Bortles’ reputation and his confidence could have gone a long way with a come from behind win that did he couldn’t make happen.