There’s something out of sync with Blake Bortles since the bye week. Despite throwing for more than 380 yards against the Jets, his mechanics look more like last year than the preseason. His “arm technique” is just that, a lot of arm. When he came back in training camp, you could see him turn his left shoulder to the line of scrimmage and use his footwork and body motion to get the ball out. Now, he’s square to the line of scrimmage and while he hits the open receiver, he’s back to throwing that flutter.
Why does this matter?
Because the space you can throw the ball into in the NFL is very small. About the size of a microwave. To get the ball in that small of a space it has to have accuracy and velocity. And usually the quarterback has to throw the ball before the receiver gets to his break. Bortles looks a little more tentative than he’s been in the first half of the year, like he’s trying not to make a mistake. You can see a quarterback’s confidence in the red zone where there’s a short field and quick decisions and accurate throws are rewarded. Bortles is struggling in that spot on the field, leading to field goals instead of TD’s.
That was the case in the first half against the Titans and lead to a 6-6 tie after 30 minutes of football. The offensive line continued to be sporadic and while the defense stifled the Titans, the offense couldn’t put much together.
Getting the ball to start the second half, the Jaguars marched down the field with a 13 play, 73-yard drive, only to get three points and lead 9-6. Running Denard Robinson at the line for three straight plays from the six only yielded four yards, most of those on 1st down. The Jaguars have too many good options on offense to be just drilling it inside the ten. Sometimes Head Coach Gus Bradley gets too locked into what they worked on practice that week. I thought he should have put Bryan Walters in the game to catch the punt against the Jets. I know it was Nick Marshall’s spot, but right there you need the ball. I’m sure they worked on Denard Robinson running it between the tackles in the red zone, but look at the game situation and put T.J. Yeldon in the game.
Meanwhile, it appeared this officiating crew was trying to make up for last week in Baltimore and couldn’t keep the flag in their pocket anytime the Titans dropped back to pass. Holding and interference calls against the Jaguars, all questionable, gave Tennessee good field position. Marcus Mariota ran the read option to perfection and although Telvin smith was spying him, Mariota beat him to the pylon for a TD and a 13-9 Titans lead.
If it sounds like there wasn’t much going on in this game it’s because there wasn’t. The jaguars weren’t playing very well on offense, no able to find the consistency and rhythm to sustain a drive. And when they did, Bortles threw it right to the guy covering Julius Thomas for an INT and a drive-killing turnover. Allen Robinson had made some good catches on 50-50 balls but that critical mistake turned up from Bortles at the exact wrong time giving the ball back to Tennessee.
After an exchange of punts, the Titans had the ball but solid play by the defense, especially Smith who stayed home this time and tackled Mariota in the backfield, forced Tennessee to punt.
Fresh off the revocable injured reserve list, Rashad Greene was back returning punts, something he’s worked on for several weeks waiting to come back. He took the punt back 63-yards, running north-south quickly and getting it down to the 5. Bortles hit Julius Thomas for a TD on a little out move against the linebacker to give the Jaguars a 16-13 lead.
On the next possession, Davon House forced a fumble and recovered it at the Titans 28 yard line with just over 3 minutes to play. A third and one was stopped at the line when Clay Harbor absolutely whiffed on his guy and Yeldon was stopped short of the 1st down. Jason Myers kicked another field goal to give the Jaguars a six-point lead 19-13 with just over two minutes to play.
Without any timeouts, the Titans moved the ball downfield against the Jaguars soft zone coverage. With 5 seconds to play and the ball on the Jaguars 23 yard line Tennessee had one play. That’s where you always here coaches say, “Somebody has to make a play.” In this situation that somebody was Andre Branch who came off his block and grabbed Mariota from behind for the sack to end the game.
With the win the Jaguars are now 4-6 and have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2013. And they’re in contention in the AFC South. San Diego will be here in 10 days on November 29th followed by a road game at Tennessee and home games with Indianapolis and Atlanta to follow. They have a chance to get on a little run here, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.