The Jaguars came out of their Week 8 bye week with a rare opportunity to overcome their 2-5 start to the season and gain ground in the AFC South divisional race with a road win against the New York Jets. Going into the game, few projected the Jags would have a chance in the game, let alone be in the driver's seat late, but that's exactly the situation Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense faced.
What happened in the final five minutes and change can simply be described as a heartbreaking series of events, where the Jags:
- fumbled in the redzone on a promising drive
- forced a three and out
- fumbled the resulting punt
- gave up a questionable short field touchdown on a deep pass
- scored their own touchdown before the two minute warning
- got the ball back after another defensive stand
- threw an interception to seal the game
Let's get to it...
Jaguars Offense vs Jets Defense
Going into the game, the Jets defense was well known for two positional groups, the monstrous defensive front and the #NoFlyZone, and neither group disappointed. In the game, the Jaguars running backs ran 15 times for 66 yards, at a reasonable 4.4 YPC average. When you take out a 45 yard scamper from TJ Yeldon in the 4th quarter, that number drops to 1.5 YPC in the run game, outside of QB runs. In any other game, that performance against the run would have been an absolute standout effort, but more on that later. On 19 passing attempts in passing situations (2nd & 8+, 3rd & 5+), the Jets only allowed success on 31.6% of plays, including only allowing 4/11 (36.3 %) conversions on such attempts on 3rd down.
Bortles was under fire all game long, with the Jets blitzing at an alarming rate:
When a defense sends five or more rushers as often as the Jets did on Sunday, it typically means there will be heavy man coverage across the board, so if the rush doesn't get home, then there can be opportunities for big plays to be made in the passing game. On Sunday, there were plenty of big plays:
On passes that traveled at least 20 yards downfield, Bortles was 8-of-10 for 220 yards, 2 TDs. #Jaguars— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) November 9, 2015
One of the reasons Bortles was able to hit on some of those longer throws was his ability to maneuver in the pocket to escape the initial rush, like he does here for a moderate gain on a scramble against a six man rush :
Bortles wasn't able to escape the rush all game, however, and ended up getting sacked six times in the game. What stood out to me was the striking difference between blitzes the Jaguars faced versus the Jets and those they faced in London against the Bills. Both teams are known to be blitz heavy, but the Jets' scheme had me very impressed by how they send pressure to funnel offenses to areas they want the ball to go to.
Take the below play as an example:
On this play, a 3rd and long deep in Jets territory, the Jets send an overload blitz to the offense's right side. What impressed me was the trap coverage established by one of the linebackers, originally lined up in the A gap, cutting off the hot read to Julius Thomas underneath, which allowed the blitz to get to Bortles for the sack. With there being an additional rusher that the protection can't handle, the remaining defender becomes the responsibility of the QB, meaning he has to quickly identify an outlet. By taking away that outlet underneath (and providing over the top coverage with a safety), Bortles had to try to escape the free blitzer (which he momentarily does).
Even when the Jets didn't blitz in obvious passing situations, they were able to create coverage sacks in passing situations with excellent down field coverage.
Blake Bortles definitely has a gunslinger mentality, and is beginning to make dazzling plays more frequently, both through the air and with his legs, but will definitely need to take better care of the football in order for this offense to take the next step.
Jaguars Defense vs Jets Offense
The Jaguars run defense this week was one of the best performances I've ever seen, and that 12.5 % success rate in the run game was just as impressive on tape as it was on paper. This was a game that should be shown during any conference covering the topics of gap discipline or run fits. Throughout the game, Jets running backs gained a total of 29 yards on 24 attempts, or 0.83 YPC. While they surrendered two short yardage touchdowns to Chris Ivory, those two runs were still stonewalled, with Ivory able to stretch the ball across the goal line. Overall, the defense only allowed two rushes in the game to go for more than four yards, with no double digit runs. There were a lot of visual representations I could have used, but I decided to use these two plays from a progressing Sen'Derrick Marks, who looks to be slowly getting back into last year's form as the season goes on:
Also helping the effort in stopping Ivory was another strong week from Telvin Smith, who showed excellent key and diagnose skills in the run and screen game:
With such strong success against the run on all three downs, the Jaguars were able to hold the Jets defense to passing situations on 10/15 of their 3rd down attempts. The Jets were able to convert 4/10 of those third down passing situations, however, which, combined with favorable field position from getting turnovers and a reviewed touchdown that still makes me question what the hell a catch is anymore, allowed them to score just enough points on the day to hold off the Jaguars.
Aside from an EJ Manuel meltdown versus the Bills, the Jaguars just haven't been able to force consistent turnovers this season. A few turnover opportunities were missed on Sunday for the defense, including a dropped interception by Sergio Brown in the second half and a heartbreaking missed fumble recovery by Paul Posluszny late in the 4th quarter. Those plays could be deemed as tough plays, however, as Brown was trailing a TE in coverage and had to slow down to catch a low pass affected by pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick and recovering a bouncing oblong football requires a certain level of "fumble luck".
A play I want to focus on is this play:
Jonathan Cyprien had one of the best single game performances of his young career against the Jets. He patrolled the box all game and registered double digit tackles while being credited with no missed tackles. On this pass break up, however, this should absolutely be an interception. Cyprien reads the play perfectly, acting as a robber in Cover 3 against the TE seam route. Where I have issue with how he played the TE rather than the ball on his approach. The ball looked to be floated out there, likely due to a little pressure from the DL causing Fitzpatrick to throw off-platform, but Cyprien hesitates on his approach for a split second and allows the TE to get inside of him, creating a contested catch situation instead of an under-cut interception... With the defensive line not generating consistent pressure against the pass this season, the secondary really needs to start capitalizing on big-play opportunities when they happen.
Overall, this game featured about as strong of a complete team performance as the Jaguars have had this season, albeit with a crushing late game turnover fit that sealed the win for the Jets. Not many observers may have had this game marked as a "should win" going into into Sunday, but that's exactly what it turned out being on the field. Again, however, the Jaguars couldn't pull it off.
In what seems like a division that is destined to go down to the wire for all of the wrong reasons, the Jaguars now face a more favorable stretch of games against struggling/injured/struggling+injured teams in the immediate. If there was ever a time to start putting together some form of consistency in their play, it would be now.
OSR Preview: Week 10 at Baltimore
I thought it might add some more value to include a preview section for the next week, so I drafted up the below charts that show how the Jaguars and Baltimore match up with each other according to the success rates in the different categories, along with league ranks.
NOTE: Defensive success rates are the accumulation of play data put up on that team by opponents, so lower percentages are good.