The Jacksonville Jaguars made several curious decisions on offense against the Kansas City Chiefs — moving away from the run early, force-feeding Donte Moncrief and Niles Paul the majority of targets — and one such situation came in the second quarter with Jacksonville driving and in Kansas City territory.
Down just 10-0, the Jaguars found themselves at the tail end of their first legitimate offensive drive. They were 11 plays and 72 yards in, getting down within three yards of the end zone.
It was 3rd-and-1 and Blake Bortles threw a jump ball to Donte Moncrief, a catch he’s not known for making, and it fell incomplete.
Then it was 4th-and-1 and the Jaguars went pass again. Pressure came around the left edge and Blake threw incomplete to Austin Seferian-Jenkins over the middle.
What was most surprising was that before those two plays, the Jaguars had run with a lot of success, gaining 51 of the drive’s 72 yards on the ground in just seven plays. All three active running backs contributed too in a variety of situations — Corey Grant had run inside for eight yards, T.J. Yeldon had run around the edge 20 yards on three carries, and Brandon Wilds never gained less than two yards on either of his carries, running out of the shotgun on one snap and behind center another.
The running backs had had success and the offensive line was getting push. The question begged to be asked — if you know you’re going for it, why are those the calls on third and fourth down.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone gave a brief response:
“We felt really comfortable it was going to be all out, cover zero which it was.”
First, that’s not really much of an explanation. There are ways to beat Cover Zero other than to pass.
But let’s talk about Cover Zero. Inside The Pylon has a good definition:
Cover 0 is a coverage scheme with zero deep defenders. This is an entirely man-to-man coverage shell that involves a heavy pass rush — normally six or more defenders. Accordingly, Cover 0 is also called a “zero blitz”. The goal is for pressure on the quarterback to disrupt the timing and progressions of the passing game, resulting in a sack or an errant throw.
Cover Zero is frequently used in goal line situations where there isn’t any deep field to defend. So let’s see how the Jaguars decide to attack it with just a yard to go for a first down.
Whether it’s a heavy goal line formation or spreading the formation out, why not give Yeldon a chance to do what he’d been doing up to that point? I hate to sound like a broken record but it had been working up to that point beautifully.
But if you’re going to pass on either of these downs, why aren’t you using Bortles’ mobility to take some of the pressure off the offensive line and allowing the play to extend and let the receivers shake their man coverage?
The simplest answer to it all is to just run the ball and live (or die) on what you’ve built this team to be from the very beginning of the season.