The Jacksonville Jaguars just beat the Buffalo Bills to earn their first playoff victory since 2007. What stood out to you the most?
1. How about that defense?
Just like all season, the Jaguars defense carried the team on Sunday. There were some blemishes in the run game during the day, but all in all, they shutdown Tyrod Taylor, who didn’t look much better than Blake Bortles did in the game. When the Bills really needed to move the ball, they couldn’t. Facing first-and-goal from a yard away, the defense held up and held them to a field goal.
The Bills decided to test All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey on a fade, and it back fired mightily. The pick to win the game is what people will remember, but the Myles Jack sack late in the 4th quarter, and the Tyler Patmon pass breakup were both almost just as big.
The best defense in the league played its best when it really mattered. That is a hell of a thing.
2. Jalen [CENSORED] Ramsey
What more can anyone say about this guy? Ramsey played a hell of a game. He saved a touchdown forcing the pass interference on former college teammate Kelvin Benjamin, and seals the game with an acrobatic catch that only few in the league could make.
The play that goes unnoticed though, was the huge hit he made late in the second quarter to not let the Bills receiver cross the first down marker, jarring him out of bounds. This allowed the Jaguars enough time to kick a field goal at the end of the half. Even though they still would have won 7-3, this field goal in my opinion helped develop some momentum going into the second half, and gave the team something to stand on moving forward in the game.
Ramsey talks the best game in the NFL, and he is the NFL’s best corner, and Jaguars king.
3. Marcell Dareus had an excellent game
It was the Doug Marrone and Marcell Dareus revenge game, and both got the sweet taste of revenge last afternoon. Dareus however, was excellent all game, in one of his first actual starts in a Jaguar uniform. Dareus had four key stops, and a run stop percentage of 18.2 percent according to Pro Football Focus.
Dareus has been one of the keys the help fixing the run defense, and he stepped up in his ever playoff game. The Jaguars pick they gave up for Dareus converted into a fifth-rounder when the Jaguars made the playoffs, and boy I have never cared less about a fifth-round pick.
4. The Jaguars need to get their run game going
The run game has been fixture for this team this year all up until late. The last three games, the Jaguars running backs have not cracked over 75 yards in a a game, and their average has been hovering right under 3.0 yards per carry. For this team, and the way they want to play, that is not acceptable. When the Jaguars needed to run the ball on Sunday, they were absolutely stuffed. Leonard Fournette was drafted to close out playoff games like this. He had trouble hitting the holes, and unfortunately, the line didn't create many either.
Part of the Jaguars win against the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this year was the 14-play drive in which the Jaguars ran it every single play. It demoralized the Steelers, and took tons of time off the clock to help seal their victory. With the way the passing offense has been lately, the run game desperately needs to get going. Nate Hackett needs to be more creative as well. These power runs up the middle don’t really seem to be working, and the best run Fournette had all day was a misdirection pitch that got him in space. Whether it’s an end around, more sweeps, or whatever, the Jaguars need to try some different things in the run game.
Bortles running for 88 yards is nice, but it can’t be something this team relies on as their best form of offense moving forward.
5. Sorry, but the Jaguars need to upgrade at quarterback
Did Bortles turn the ball over? No. Did the Jaguars win? Yes. Those two things I am very happy about.
That does not mean however, that Bortles performance on Sunday was acceptable.
Bortles’ three-game stretch where he looked all world was nice, but he has come back crashing down to earth in the last three games. Now, do I think Bortles is Sunday’s type of performance bad? I don’t, but that is part of the spectrum you get with Blake Bortles.
Bortles’ inability to throw a pass through much of the game hurt the Jaguars in a big way. The one drive he actual did, they were able to score a touchdown. The ceiling for this team is so high when the passing game is even average, but we cannot expect it to be that any Sunday. Who knows, maybe good Bortles comes back into Pittsburgh with nothing to lose and lights it up. However, one playoff victory should not influence the Jaguars decision making brass from looking for upgrades at the quarterback position.
This team has a window to win now in my opinion, and at the very least, they should look for upgrades in the offseason. That doesn’t mean cut Bortles the first day of the new league year. But this team deserves better, and it may have to come from someone other than Bortles. The team needs to treat the quarterback like any other position, in that it can be upgraded if necessary.
We will have all offseason to talk about the Jaguars strategies approaching this. I hope so bad Bortles proves me wrong, and people rub it in my face. I was wrong going into this season, and I would be pleased to be wrong again. It is the playoffs, so anything can happen. I have my doubts though, no question about it.