Sometimes things crystalize right in front of your eyes when you’re watching the Jaguars play. In their opening drive against the Ravens, they drove the ball to midfield with a good blend of Toby Gerhart running and Blake Bortles passing. Gerhart’s healthy and running hard while Bortles looks confident.
Then things fall apart.
A wide-open Marcedes Lewis drops a perfect pass for a first down to keep a drive going and former Jaguar Daryl Smith tips a pass on 3rd down to force a punt. Will Ta’ufo’ou misses a block on the punt team and it’s blocked and returned for a TD. 7-0 Baltimore.
If Lewis catches the ball, the drive’s still happening. If Will makes the block, the Ravens field position is not good. In the span of a couple plays, the whole Jaguars season just happened right before your eyes. That’s why coming in to Baltimore, they’re 2-11. Flashes of what they can do but mind-blowing inconsistency and not just by young players.
Although the special teams have allowed 5 blocked kicks this year (2 punts and 3 FG’s) the one constant has been Josh Scobee. His two field goals in the first quarter from 53 and 45 yards kept the Jaguars in the game in the first quarter, 7-6.
More of the same in the second quarter. Mostly good defense, stuffing Justin Forsett and forcing him out of the game. They forced a fumble (18th of the year, tying a franchise record) and Scobee kicked another FG to make it 9-7.
It’s OK for a 2-1 team to try a little trickery so an on-side kick followed with Jonathan Cyprien’s recovery and the Jaguars were in business again. But this time, they squandered the opportunity with Scobee missing from 42 yards, still 9-7.
Joe Flacco is one of the premier QB’s in the game (They introduce him here as the “MVP of Super Bowl XLIV”) and he can find open guys. The middle of the field remains a problem for the Jaguars and Flacco exploited it, moving the ball inside the 10 with three minutes to play. But the D stiffened again and forced a FG, 10-9 Ravens.
But playing with a sense of confidence and moving the ball in big chunks, Bortles hit Alan Hurns across the middle for a 23 yard gain to give them a chance at the end zone. A better pass to Marqise Lee would have been a TD but instead, Scobee hit another FG to give the Jaguars a 12-10 lead.
Can they remember last week and not fall apart the same way they did against the Texans? Gus Bradley said he was partly responsible for that and promised he’ll have the team more ready to play. But it felt like a half of missed opportunity. No points off the onside kick, no TD’s and some good field position without a much to show for it. The Jaguars gave up four sacks for the 5th week in a row and held the ravens to 13 yards rushing but still only lead by two.
The third quarter looked like the third quarter from last week. Exchange of punts, not much offense for the Jaguars and a sustained, six play, 80-yard drive by the opposition to take a lead. Again the Jaguars didn’t cover the middle of the field and missed tackles. The Ravens had Owen Daniels wide open a couple of times, including off play action in the end zone and lead 17-12.
There were a few opportunities for the Jaguars offense as they moved into the 4th quarter. A fake punt worked for a first down but no points. A couple of good stands by the defense gave them good field position, but no points. A Ravens missed field goal gave them the ball near midfield, but two sacks (61 given up this year) forced a punt. No points. A good defensive sequence forced the Ravens to punt from their end zone. Ace Sanders returned it 13 yards and a holding penalty put the ball at the 50. Turned it over on downs, still, no points.
Meanwhile the Ravens very professionally ground the clock, ran the ball and gained first downs. Flacco even ran for a 1st down on 3rd and 5 late in the 4th quarter on a designed running play for the QB.
That led to a FG and a 20-12 victory for the Ravens, somewhat reminiscent of last week’s loss to Houston. Halftime lead, nothing in the second half.
Being in Baltimore reminded me of the years the Jaguars had the Ravens in their division and the great games the two teams played. The Jaguars ruled the series and looked like a regular playoff contender for years to come. But as they lost their way on the field, the operation of the franchise suffered as well. As I’ve noted before, Wayne Weaver was loyal to a fault to his friends when their time had been up in the front office for a while. The Ravens “do a lot of things right” as one Jaguars staffer told me, on the field and off.
While 30 years ago then-Mayor Jake Godbold pointed to Baltimore as a good model for Jacksonville to follow, (the city lost their way on that mission) perhaps a thorough inspection of the Raven is in order for the Jaguars as well. They’ve made great strides as an organization under Shad Khan but could still learn a few things from other teams around the league, the Ravens being one of them.
Let’s hope those lessons are applied quickly, on and off the field and perhaps the days of 71,000 in the stands, as there were on this day in Baltimore, can return to Jacksonville.