It didn’t take long to distinguish between the preseason and the regular season opener once the Jaguars and the Panthers took the field. While the preseason is about learning, evaluating and developing, the regular season is about production and early on, the Jaguars didn’t have it. Three and outs on offense, drops by Allen Robinson and Rashad Greene, a missed Jason Myers field goal and a fumble by Allen Hurns kept the offense in check through the first 30 minutes. Add to that Blake Bortles looking tentative and a little off to start the game and Carolina had control early.
In fact, the Panthers took their first drive for 14 plays with a mix of the pass and run to get a field goal and take a 3-0 lead. Bus Bradley talks about the “fits” when it comes to his defense and there were some “misfits” that were glaring leading to the Carolina score.
When the Jaguars offense got going, it was rookie T.J. Yeldon that looked sharp, dodging tacklers, getting first downs and keeping the Panthers defense at bay. Jason Myers converted his first FG of the year from 22 yards out to tie the game at three. But Bortles looked a little tentative inside the ten and they settled for a field goal.
They had a couple of other chances, particularly when Paul Posluszny intercepted a Cam newton pass to give the Jaguars good field position. But Myers missed his first FG of the year from 44 yards and it remained 3-3.
A sustained drive by the Panthers in the second quarter looked a little too easy, particularly the TD pass from Newton to Jeremy Cotchery to take a 10-3 lead.
That’s when Bortles started to look at bit like the player he showed in the preseason. Under two minutes to play, he took the underneath stuff, glad to get positive yards and had the Panthers defense on their heels. The he found a wide open Hurns near the goal line (with Hurns doing a good job keeping two feet in bounds) to nearly complete the 2 minute drill. Now with only :21 to play in the half and no timeouts, the Jaguars had to throw it and after one unsuccessful back shoulder throw, Bortles hit Greene at the goal line for six. But Myers missed the extra point and the Jaguars went to the locker room trailing 10-9.
Carolina isn’t by any means a good team and the Jaguars are still figuring out who they are. So after some back and forth to start the second half, Bortles tried to throw the quick out one too many times, and Josh Norman picked it off and scored easily to give the Panthers a 17-9 lead.
Give Blake credit as he came right back and started driving the ball down field. A nice run after catch by Denard Robinson gave the Jaguars a first down but Hurns dropped a strike by Bortles on third down and the Jaguars had to punt. Too many of those for the Jaguars receivers in critical situations.
One of my favorite golf sayings is, “I’d like to play my normal game, just once.” In other words, I see a good game in my mind, but I just can’t get it out of there and execute it on the course. Watching the Jaguars game felt a lot like when you hit it great on the range and can’t find the fairway once you get to the first tee. The Jaguars didn’t have the same snap, the same precision they seemed to have acquired in the preseason. And when you do that, the other team makes you pay, even if they aren’t a good team themselves. I’d probably take the Jaguars talent over the Panthers, but getting it all working in game one was a struggle.
In the 4th quarter, the Jaguars had Carolina pinned at their own goal line on 3rd down but had some confusion in the defensive set up on third down that had Dan Skuta running for the sideline. Newton threw incomplete but the Jaguars weren’t sure if they had 11 or 12 men on the field and called time out. Good news for Carolina who converted their second attempt and ground over 7 and a half minutes off the clock before kicking a field goal to make it a two score game. A Bortles interception ended the chances for the Jaguars who open the season, again, with a loss.
This one particularly stings because of the promise they showed in the preseason but for some reason couldn’t bring it to the stadium against the Panthers. The beginning of the year schedule doesn’t favor the Jaguars with a home game against Miami next week and then three straight road games. A win in the next three weeks would be a big upset, so they’re staring at 0-4 after starting the last two years 0-8 and 0-6. If nothing else, they needed this for a little momentum and some confidence, but got neither.