For the first time since week one, the Jacksonville Jaguars played like, well, the Jacksonville Jaguars. We returned to our roots in a vicious beating of the Kansas City Chiefs that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated. Sunday, we saw what we can be, and it's a whole lot better than we thought up to this point. Today, I'll go over the offense's return to form, and tomorrow, expect my analysis of the defense's return to their roots. Let's look at why the Jaguars' offense succeeded on Sunday.
Run, and Do So Up the Middle.
Vince Manuwai showed he's almost fully recovered from his season-ending injury last year, and that he's still a great run-blocker. At the age of 30, he still has a few solid years in the tank. Uche Nwaneri played one of his most physical games of the season, and the way he pushed the pile at the goal-line was textbook Jaguar football. Brad Meester played like a man possessed in the run game. Despite being 33, the savvy veteran showed he can still bring it. Our interior line is clearly better at run-blocking than they are at protecting David.
Rookie Tackles Showing Improvement
The first and second-round picks in this year's draft are both starting for the team, and both continue to improve each week. I don't want to hear anyone say that they're not doing great, because clearly they are. Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton are outperforming both Andre Smith, and Jason Smith, and continue to improve each week. We almost never see a holding penalty, unless it is to keep Garrard from getting sacked. Last year, it was surprising if our tackles weren't penalized for holding at least twice a week. Andy Heck is one of the better assistant coaches this team has, and under his tutelage, I expect both to be excelling by week 14.
Mike Sims-Walker has shown he's a legit number one receiver, and when the team runs to set up the pass, he makes things look easy. That being said, I was more impressed with out rookie WR play. We haven't ever seen such an instant impact from late round picks. Mike Thomas is a madman when returning kicks, and Spoony has likely lost his job, even when he returns healthy. Jarrett Dillard showed the hands he displayed in college, when he literaly snatched a crucial 3rd down rocket, courtesy of Garrard. The future is going to be sooner than we expect if these players continue to progress.
The Jaguars' return to their historical roots of running the ball and stopping the run was beautiful to watch, and it should remind all of us WHY they go hand in hand. The Jaguars had two drives of 10 plays, and three drives of 9 plays. They ran the ball 41 times, and controlled the clock as a result. We all know the clock stops after an incomplete pass, therefore, pass-happy teams leave more clock for their opponents to score with. The Jaguars had the ball almost 13 minutes more than the Chiefs, do you think that may have had something to do with why the Chiefs defense looked so exhausted in the 4th Quarter?
When you run the ball all game long, the defense wears down. RB's like Jerome Bettis, and Marcus Allen got better as the game wore on, because the defensive players had been so beaten down all game. It's like a boxing match between two heavy-weights, you may not knock the guy out in the first round, but the accumulation of punishment leads to mistakes by your opponent, and eventually, his defeat.
Running the Ball Makes 3rd Down Manageable
The Jaguars commitment to the run enabled them to post a better than 50% conversion ratio on third-down. We saw very few third and long situations, and even when the Jaguars encountered them, David seemed to find the open man. The Jaguars employed safe, hard-nosed football, and nothing brought me more joy than to see the Jaguars run the QB sneak on second or third and short numerous times. That's the kind of conservative, clock-eating football that keeps your defense fresh, the opponent's defense tired, and the opposing offense out of rhythm. Run the ball and stop the run, and you'll win far more than you'll lose.
Well Timed Play-Action Passes and Good Route Design
I have to give props to Dirk Koetter for calling a run-first game while still utilizing the play-action pass effectively. The play that sprung Sims-Walker free was all play-design. MJD lined up on the outside as a WR, while Sims-Walker was lined up with two other wide-outs in the trips formation to the opposite side. When MJD came in motion, the whole defense took notice. Once the ball was snapped, MSW ran a simple drag pattern across the defense and was completely unaccounted for because of the confusion the design caused the Chiefs. When Dirk establishes the run first, he looks a whole lot smarter.