Sometimes I’m perplexed by the Jaguars play calling and lack of offense. When you see them prepare, they seem to get it. But in games, it becomes a different story. Opening the game down 7-0 after giving up an game starting drive of 84 yards (to Charlie Whitehurst) the Jaguars ran the ball a couple of times with Toby Gerhart for a first down. Then, perhaps going on a script, a throw to Cecil Shorts wasn’t perfect, and he dropped it. So Gerhart gets three on the stretch play (that I hate) and it brings up third and 7. As we know, the 3-yard pass is always open on 3rd and 7, so Blake Bortles throws it to Jordan Todman in the flat, covered, for a loss of 4 and the Jaguars punt. Not only did they stop executing, it seemed that the play selection was doomed to fail as well. Not a lot of movement, not a lot of play action or anything else. Just basic plays that either work or they don’t. And when they don’t, which is more often than not these days, there aren’t a lot of options.
More of the same followed for the Jaguars offense, mustering 16 yards on 4 possessions. If you’re a fan of punting, Bryan Anger put on a display, especially a 61-yarder that was up there forever.
On defense, it was a different unit than the one that played against Baltimore on Sunday. Big chunks of yardage were given up, especially over the middle to wide-open receivers, especially the tight end. Head Coach Gus Bradley has said if guys are running wide open, then it’s a blown assignment. Somebody back there clearly has a problem with that assignment because it’s always open and teams know it. The Titans took advantage of holes in the secondary to get inside the Jaguars 40 and kick a field goal to make it 10-0.
Right before the 2-minute warning, the Jaguars offense finally got untracked, sort of. Gerhart was getting the ball going at the line of scrimmage and finding creases, running people over and doubled the Jaguars offensive production in two carries. A nice roll out throw by Bortles to Marqise Lee put the ball in Titans territory. But for some reason, Gerhart came out of the game and the Jaguars went backwards. Lee made another nice catch, Marcedes Lewis fell down on the 23 and Bortles bailed himself out by scrambling for a 1st down. There was a Cecil Shorts sighting and he fought to the 4-yard line.
This is where the Jaguars have struggled for most of the season. Again, some of it execution and some of it play selection. But finding Lewis singled up against a cornerback, Bortles fired a bullet that Lewis snatched out of the air and fought to hold on to for a TD. It might be the single best play of his entire career and should have been a staple of the offense every time he’s healthy. Nonetheless, TD Jaguars and they went to the half down 10-7. After mustering only 16 yards of offense through most of the first half, they gobbled up 80 on that drive alone. Part execution, part play selection.
Since Tennessee won the toss and took the ball to start the game, the Jaguars had the ball to start the second half and took advantage of it right away. One of the reasons the team has so much hope for the future is how things sometimes click so perfectly. Bortles hit Lee over the middle for 34 yards and then twice to Hurns for 8 and 15 yards to threaten for some points. A little trick throwback from Shorts to Jordan Todman made it first and goal and after a defensive holding call, the Jaguars actually gave the ball to Gerhart from the 1 for a TD and a 14-10 lead.
Then it went back to a punt-fest.
The defense stiffened with 6 minutes to go in the game and stopped the Titans on 4th and 2. Jordan Todman followed that with a 62-yard TD run to give the Jaguars a 21-10 lead. Three offensive TD’s in this game vs. none in the past two combined.
They gave up a FG and then it was only a matter of whether the offense could control the ball for the rest of the game and secure the victory. They couldn’t and Bradley eschewed a FG attempt in favor of a punt with a minute to play that went into the end zone for a touchback and the Titans took over on the 20.
They moved it to midfield pretty easily but were running out of time. Whitehurst was looking around for a chance to throw a Hail Mary into the end zone when Sen’Derrick Marks sacked him to end the game. Not only did that secure the win but it also gave marks 8.5 sacks this year, earning him a $600,000 bonus.
With three wins the Jaguars have a chance to equal last years record in the final game at Houston. Once they opened up the offense, they moved the ball but not with the consistency they’d like to have.
You’d rather be a Jaguar fan than a Titan fan at this point. While the Jaguars are hoping their young players emerge, the Titans will be searching for a quarterback and other young players for a few years.