Much of the discussion on the drive to Tampa this weekend centered on the good and bad teams in the NFL and where the Jaguars fit in that discussion. We came up with New England, Green Bay, Atlanta (sort of), Denver and maybe a couple of others as possible good teams. Both the Jaguars and the Buccaneers qualified among the bad teams in the league along with the Raiders and a few others. So that left about 22 average teams in the league.
But if the Jaguars play at their best, can they win? You’d like to think so but after a week of supposed “great practices” the Jaguars looked anything but even close to good against the lowly Bucs.
After deferring to the second half the Jaguars defense allowed the Bucs to march down the field in the opening drive, giving up a field goal and trailing 3-0. I never worry too much about opening drives because they’re on a script and each team is figuring out what the other is doing. But in this case, Jameis Winston had way too much time and Doug Martin was chewing up yardage on the ground at will.
After a couple of three and outs by both teams, the Jaguars put together a nice drive. Blending the run by T.J. Yeldon and Blake Bortles passing, the Jaguars scored a TD, Bortles to Hurns and a 7-3 lead.
But the Bucs kept chewing up yardage and were gaining confidence for a team that had lost 10 straight at home. They kicked a field goal to pull within 7-6.
A big 61-yard punt by Bryan Anger was negated by a 58-yard runback. The Bucs scored after some horrendous tackling by the Jaguars, Martin taking a quick pass from Winston for 10 yards and a13-7 lead.
That’s when Blake Bortles threw an interception, trying to force the ball on the outside to Marcedes Lewis giving Tampa Bay good field position. He had receivers open all over the field, but never saw one of them. In fact, the Bucs were scrambling on defense, knowing at the snap of the ball they didn’t have the formation covered.
It didn’t take long for the Bucs to capitalize, Martin scoring on a 1 yard run to make it 20-7. Do the Jaguars have enough offense to overcome a team that scores 20 points?
At least they got the two-minute drill right. It’s a mystery why they don’t run more “up tempo” more often, considering how comfortable Bortles looks in that situation. They marched right down the field and scored on a 13-yard TD pass from Bortles to Allen Robinson, 20-14 Bucs at the half.
Getting the ball to open the second half, the Jaguars had a nice drive going but it stalled near the red zone with Bortles getting locked in on one receiver again. A Jason Myers field goal made it 20-17.
A good defensive stand gave the Jaguars the ball at their own 40. Again a little success bred some confidence for the Jaguars and they went 61 yards in 6 plays, a TD pass from Bortles (his third) to Yeldon gave the Jaguars a 24-20 lead. The pass was back across the field and had interception written all over it but Yeldon was wide open and held onto it for six.
After a Bucs FG made it 24-23, the Jaguars gave the ball to the rookie Corey Grant at the ten where he promptly fumbled and gave up a score for a 31-24 lead after the 2-point conversion. That’s where the Jaguars can’t get out of their own way. Leading, holding the other team to a field goal and still holding onto a one-point lead, it’s imperative not to do something silly that gets you beat. But they seem to find a way. And what’s Grant doing in the game at that point anyway?
After not moving it on their next possession, the Jaguars special teams and tackling let them down again, giving the Bucs a short field and they took advantage. Martin scored again to give Tampa Bay a two-touchdown lead, 38-24.
Not much happened for the next six minutes as the Bucs just ground the clock out with one first down after another until the Jaguars scored on a 59 yard catch and run by Allen Hurns and a 5 yard TD catch by Allen Robinson. It was Bortles 4th TD throw of the day.
But the Bucs recovered the ensuing onside kick and the final score was 38-31, Tampa Bay.
For the second week in a row, it’s a particularly disappointing loss since the Jaguars had the momentum and the lead but couldn’t hold it. It’s their 12th straight road loss and snaps a 10 game home losing streak for the Bucs.
I’ve asked a lot this week if the Jaguars were good enough to win if they play their best.
We still don’t know.