The Jacksonville Jaguars guaranteed they’d have a losing season for the sixth year in a row in Sunday’s 28-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills, falling to 2-9 on the season. During and after Sunday’s game, fans were white hot about the poor officiating in the game and feeling it’s what cost the Jaguars potentially their third win of the season. There was a fumble by LeSean McCoy that was too hastily ruled that his forward progress was stopped, thus making it unreviewable. There were a few missed pass interference calls on Allen Robinson and Neal Sterling.
The missed calls and referees weren’t why the Jaguars lost the game, though. The officiating in the NFL (all sports) is bad. It’s always been bad. It will always be bad. They’re subjective calls made live by human beings. They’re going to mess up and they’re going to mess up often. It’s one of the few consistencies in the NFL. I’m sure there were missed calls on the Bills side, like last year in the game in London which I’m sure Bills fans feel cost them the game, but the reality is officiating rarely, if ever, decides a game.
If you’re in a position to where a few missed calls “make you lose”, then you didn’t play well enough to begin with. Yes, NFL games are close, but it shouldn’t be that close and if it is it’s your own fault for not putting the game away. You can’t control officiating. It’s always going to be bad, so you just control what you can control and the vast majority of the time it works itself out. Not to mention that bad teams don’t get the benefit of the doubt and don’t get the calls… and the Jaguars are a very bad team. Michael Jordan didn’t get special treatment from the refs because he was nice.
The biggest reason the Jaguars lost on Sunday were because of three monumental coaching gaffs by Gus Bradley. Sure, missed calls by the officials didn’t help the Jaguars cause, but like I said, that is not in your control. What is in control however is the decisions of the head coach and on Sunday, he made three critical errors.
The first big mistake by Bradley was at the end of the half. On fourth-and-10 the Jaguars punted and the Bills were flagged for running into the kicker, which meant the Jaguars had the option of accepting the five-yard penalty and either re-kicking or adding it on to where Buffalo took possession of the punt. The original punt, from the 22-yard line was for 49 yards to the Bills 29-yard line and returner Brandon Tate was tackled at the Buffalo 45-yard line for a 16-yard return. Adding the penalty to the end of the return would have placed the Bills at the 40-yard line. Not ideal field position, but not bad enough where you’d need to re-kick it, especially with how you’ve been handling their offense so far in the game. Inexplicably, Gus Bradley chose to re-kick.
The end result?
A 43-yard punt from the Jaguars own 27-yard line to the Bills 30-yard line for a 43-yard return by Brandon Tate. That’s a near 30-yard swing in field position, plus a penalty for illegal formation tacked on to the end. There are too many things that can go wrong in the process of a punt for a coach to decide they’d rather re-kick than back the other team up five yards, which is why you rarely see teams choose to re-kick on their own, unless the original punt was just an outright shank, which Brad Nortman’s original punt was not. It’s why most teams force the other team to re-kick if given the option, because there is so much that can go wrong on that given play. Buffalo would later score a touchdown thanks to Bradley’s second gaff.
Jacksonville’s defense had kept the Bills in check during the first half so far, but it appeared as if they’d give up at least a field goal thanks to the punt issues and the Jaguars had the Bills stopped on the 13-yard line with fourth-and-one. The Bills were setting up to kick a field goal, but because of some confusion on the defensive lineman lining up Gus Bradley called a timeout. This gave Buffalo a chance to think about it and Rex Ryan decided to go for it. Two plays later the Bills are in the end zone, miss the extra point, and now trail just 7-6 going into halftime.
The last massive error Bradley made was on the Jaguars final drive of the game. It was fourth-and-four and the team was hurrying trying to get the play off. Rather than call a timeout, on probably the game determining play, Bradley thinks the team can hike the ball and they end up with a delay of game penalty pushing them to fourth-and-nine and subsequently failing to get the first down.
It’s the most critical down of the game. You call a timeout. You don’t risk eating a delay of game penalty because you think that they can get the play off. You make surethey can get the play off by calling a timeout.
Yes, the officials were bad on Sunday, but ultimately the Jaguars lost because of critical errors by Gus Bradley.