I watched the game yesterday in Engine 11 (a bar in Midtown Atlanta) with a good Jacksonvillian friend and about 20 other Atlanta Jaguars fan. The game began pretty well. We stopped the Browns on their first possession (a rare feat this year), then turned around and put a field goal on the board. Of course, after that, the Browns rammed the ball down our throats for a Touchdown, and MJD threw his first pass of the season... right to the other team. Apparently the Jaguars offense chose to follow up last week's Hail Mary with a Mea Culpa to the tune of 6 turnovers. The second half just reeked of bad turnovers. At one point a stat came across the screen showing the results of the four most recent Jaguars drives. It was: PUNT, FUMBLE, INT, INT. You know what came after that?... Another fumble. At some point in the third quarter, after we had handed the ball (and potentially the game) to the Browns for the 6th time, trailing by a touchdown, my friend turned to me and said "Wouldn't it be fun if we turned the ball over 6 times and still won?"
I took my eyes off the screen, stared bullets in his eyes and said, "None of this will be 'fun' if we don't win." I've thought all week that this game was vital to the Jaguars survival this year. I didn't want to make jokes or mess around, I wanted for the Jaguars to win. I didn't doubt it would happen: David Garrard was having more of an unlucky game than a bad one, and we were clearly the superior team from the second the teams stepped on the field. In the end we still won, and I allowed myself to enjoy the win, but as I was thinking about it yesterday, the game just left a bad taste in my mouth. Here's why:
We didn't play Jaguars football. Sure Dirk Koetter is a passing-guru offensive coach, but this Jaguars team, especially with Mike Sims-Walker inactive, didn't have the personnel for a trick play, long ball kind of game plan. Still, the game plan called for more than a few deep balls and a halfback pass.
That was the kicker for me, honestly. The Halfback pass. Why would you do that? A halfback pass does not win you games, a halfback pass loses them. Remeber the Texans game from last year?
The Browns are a very simple team to understand. They wear their tough guy persona on their sleeves. When the Browns lined up against the Patriots, Jets, and Saints in the last three weeks they said, "Hey. Have you ever heard of this Peyton Hillis guy? Well he's our stud, he's our star, and he's getting the ball." They didn't do anything fancy on either side of the ball. They came after you on defense, and they played power, ball control football on offense. Sound like any team you know? The difference between the Jaguars and the Browns, however, is that the Jaguars have more talent.
Just think about the two rosters: David Garrard > Colt McCoy, Mike Thomas > Brian Robiskie, Marcedes Lewis > Ben Watson. Both teams have good backfields, but the Jags also have very good run stuffers up front with Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton at DT and Daryl Smith and Kirk Morrison at LB. The Browns were without Scott Fujita, and really only have one guy who is consistent up front in Shaun Rogers. We should have stayed simple. We have the better roster. But we didn't. We chose to get tricky, and what did we do? Turn the ball over.
We won that game because midway through the third quarter the Jaguars finally listened to all of my screaming at the TV and handed the ball off. MJD racked up over 150 total yards in the second half, the biggest part of it coming on a 72 yard screen play in crunch time. When it counted, we dropped the finesse passes and deep balls, and just went back to beat-em-up football like we should have been doing all along.
The coaching duo of "Jack and Dirkster" need to learn from this game. There's no need to out-think a team when you can just dominate them. We have a tough schedule remaining for the season. We have all three of our divisional away games left, as well as Oakland, Washington and the New York Giants. I believe that this season we have more talent than Washington, Houston, and Tennessee. I'd call Oakland a push, and we've already beaten the Colts this season. We can make the playoffs. We can win the division. We won yesterday, but how much can we enjoy seeing our team play badly?