“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives; who will wipe this blood off us?”
When the Jaguars defense took the field at Arrowhead Stadium they came in as a collection gods. As a unit, a God. An immovable defensive force staring into the eyes of another God representing the power of an unstoppable offensive force.
When the smoke cleared, the defensive God was dead. Long live the offensive God!
Points, yards, and efficiency of work rate had left the Jaguars defense bloodied. The likes of Jalen Ramsey could tout their individual success, A. J. Buoye and Tashaun Gipson left with tokens from their enemy, but the sum of the parts had been halted.
But is this death too dramatic? Is a better framing to say the defense was wounded?
“Still bloodied, but able to leave the battle field.
Set forth to recover to fight another day.
Eleven more games to play.”
Death is the end of the season, yet something had died. So what then of this death? Who has the power to perform the act of taking the life from this thing?
It is the fan. The critic. The outcome surely concludes the Jaguars are in fact not a defensive God. Mike DiRocco, Jaguars beat writer for ESPN, framed this for us in his pre-game article titled “Immovable Jaguars D braced for Chiefs’ unstoppable offense”. He closes with:
“It’s a bigger challenge than they might think. According to Elias, teams with the top-scoring offense have matched up against teams with the top-scoring defense in Week 5 or later seven times in the past 20 seasons. The teams with the top-scoring offense are 5-2 in those games, and the top scoring offenses have averaged 30.1 points per game in the seven games.”
The writers here at Big Cat Country reflected how we saw this defense. Too good. Dare we say, elite. It was a feeling reflected from the Jaguars players themselves.
We’ve shown that no matter who’s on offense, we’ve got the guys over here to do it. This is something that we’re built for. We’re built on speed, we’re built on toughness, and we’re built on just that fire and passion. I guess we’re going to have a good outing come Sunday. It’s going to be an exciting opportunity.” Tashaun Gipson
What then do we make of this defense after the loss? We kill them. They myth that is this defensive God. We assert they did not do enough to win. We lay, at their feet, the responsibility afforded to a God.
Easiest question to answer. The very act of comparing them to historical defensive icons is the response. Chicago Bears. Baltimore Ravens. Defenses that refused movement. And when they, the Jagauars, are moved, are wounded, we realize they are mortal. They are Xerxes.
How close are you to calling me out for hyperbole? Careful. Did you not read the pre-game articles prior to the Jets game, asking how Sam Darnold would fare against the Jaguars elite defense?
And then Alfie asked:
We're certainly on the same page that this game is all on No. 5. However, this defense has set a high bar for themselves. Giving up 400 yards of offense isn't a good day for them. That was the point I was making.— Brian Jackson (@WJXTBJackson) October 7, 2018
Some people have really insane standards for the defense.— Harry Montana (@AlfieBCC) October 7, 2018
Now we are asking the right question. What does elite mean? Does it mean you slow down the most efficient offense so that they are forced into field goals instead of touchdowns? Kansas City scored a touchdown on their first drive (and yes that drive was dominant), then were forced into three straight field goals. They didn’t score another touchdown early in the 4th quarter.
The defense intercepted Mahomes twice, the first a turnover that could very easily have changed the tone of the game. Sadly the Jaguars fumbled the ball away immediately.
So I ask again, what makes a defense elite? Must you completely shut down a dominant offense? There is nothing insane about this question, nor is it setting too high of a standard.
How do you define a God? Is there no stone it cannot move?
When the Jaguars lost to the Titans 9-6 the thinking was clear. The defense limited the Titans offensively. Holding a team under 10 points is a good standard for being elite, but in fairness what Tennessee offers is no where near how the Chiefs level their opponents. Is yielding 23 points versus the best offense in the league similar to yielding 9 points to one more pedestrian?
Another phrase has been used it the context of the Jaguars defense: Good enough to win. By that I mean, “The Jaguars lost, but the Jaguars defense played good enough to win.” This can be true for either an elite or just a dominant defense. It is beyond obvious that the Jaguars defense played good enough to win. It is hard to overcome five turnovers and questionable play calling that saw the offense turn the ball over on downs inside the Chiefs’ five yard line.
So do you know what the standards are for an elite defense?
The Baltimore Ravens defense of the 2000 season is considered one of the greatest of all time. During that season the Ravens lost a total of four games. The offense scored 6, 3, 6, and 6 points respectively while the defense yielded 19, 10, 14, and 9 points. For the entire season the defense gave up more than 20 points only three times.
One of those games you might remember.
In week two the Jaguars were steam rolling the Ravens, and Jimmy Smith was at lead with a career receiving game. Unfortuately the Jaguars failed to hold the lead, giving up a late touchdown to tight end Shannon Sharpe. The Ravens won that game 39-36.
What of this god we have killed with our pens for blades, and our words for daggers? Appreciate the context within which we judge. If the offense is even 50% more efficient what does that do to how the game is managed by both teams? It is more than just a thought experiment, it speaks to the very relationship dynamic that occurs on a football field. The one feeds off the other.
Truthfully, I expected more from the Jaguars this past Sunday. However, upon reflection it occurred to me I had failed to set a standard for what it means to be elite. Can an elite defense have a game in which they appear to be “good enough”? The answer would appear to be “yes”. Does being elite require you to dominate every team you play? The answer is surely “no”.
The problem may be that elite is being equated with perfect. We may find that today, in Jerry’s World, the Jaguars defense we expected to see last week shows up. Yes it is against lesser competition, but so what? An elite defense will learn, adjust, and return to form regardless of the opponent.
Take seriously this question. What makes an elite defense? Then ask yourself, what must be done to take that label away? Being frustrated our standards of what we expect from them may in fact drop them down in rating, but until the mirror turns upon us, and our standards, we should be careful about absolute claims. It would wise to consider this game played by mortal men.
If God is dead, and we have killed it, maybe it was a false God. Maybe its death was needed because it was a God we created, and not God itself. We have at least eleven more games to decide.