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Doug Marrone blames inefficient run game for loss to Patriots in AFC Championship

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How much of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ loss in the AFC Championship was players and how much was play-calling?

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars were one bad quarter away from a trip to the Super Bowl. It’s more than that — phantom pass interference calls, 3rd-and-18, three first downs given up due to penalties — but an offense that had three straight punts in the fourth quarter should certainly receive some of the blame against the New England Patriots.

When asked how he would have handled the offensive game plan differently in the fourth quarter, head coach Doug Marrone pinpointed the lack of a productive run game late as what he may not have leaned on.

“It is one of those things where we thought we would be able to run the football at an efficient level and we weren’t able to do that. You have to give New England credit there and they did a better job of executing, a better job of coaching than we did at times. I put that more on me than anything else. I have to do a better job for our coaches and our players to give them an opportunity to perform or execute at a better level.”

Is Marrone’s criticism warranted? Yup, “run game” does not equal Leonard Fournette. He’s part of it. But another part we’re not talking enough about is that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett didn’t put him in a position to succeed.

In 2017, Fournette ran out of a shotgun formation just 88 times for an underwhelming 3.4 yards per carry. Compare that 251 attempts under center for 4.0 yards per carry.

If Hackett wanted to run his fourth quarter drives out of the shotgun, which when you look at the drives he absolutely did, why not include Fournette in the passing game instead? Last season, when Fournette was catching passes out of the shotgun he averaged 8.8 yards on 22 catches and went for a first down on 10 of them.

Instead, Hackett’s fourth quarter run philosophy against the Patriots was shotgun formation, run Fournette on first down, and then hope your passing game can bail you out.

Drive #1: 3 plays, 9 yards

  • 1st and 10 at JAX 33: (Shotgun) L.Fournette up the middle to JAX 35 for 2 yards
  • 2nd and 8 at JAX 35: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass incomplete short middle to M.Lewis
  • 3rd and 8 at JAX 35: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass short left to A.Hurns to JAX 42 for 7 yards
  • 4th and 1 at JAX 42: B.Nortman punts 43 yards to NE 15

Drive #2: 5 plays, 22 yards

  • 1st and 10 at JAX 16: (Shotgun) L.Fournette left tackle to JAX 17 for 1 yard
  • 2nd and 9 at JAX 17: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass short middle to A.Hurns to JAX 37 for 20 yards
  • 1st and 10 at JAX 37: (Shotgun) L.Fournette left tackle to JAX 38 for 1 yard
  • 2nd and 9 at JAX 38: B.Bortles pass incomplete deep left to D.Westbrook
  • 3rd and 9 at JAX 38: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass incomplete short right to M.Lewis.
  • 4th and 9 at JAX 38: B.Nortman punts 43 yards to NE 19

Drive #3: 3 plays, -1 yard

  • 1st and 10 at JAX 10: (Shotgun) L.Fournette up the middle to JAX 9 for -1 yards
  • 2nd and 11 at JAX 9: B.Bortles pass incomplete deep left to A.Hurns
  • 3rd and 11 at JAX 9: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass incomplete short middle to K.Cole
  • 4th and 11 at JAX 9: B.Nortman punts 41 yards to 50

Drive #4: 6 plays, 32 yards

  • 1st and 10 at JAX 25: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass short middle to M.Lee to JAX 33 for 8 yards
  • 2nd and 2 at JAX 33: (No Huddle, Shotgun) B.Bortles pass deep left to D.Westbrook pushed ob at NE 38 for 29 yards
  • 1st and 10 at NE 38: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass incomplete deep left to L.Fournette
  • 2nd and 10 at NE 38: (Shotgun) B.Bortles sacked at NE 45 for -7 yards
  • 3rd and 19 at NE 47: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass short right to J.O’Shaughnessy pushed ob at NE 43 for 4 yards
  • 4th and 15 at NE 43: (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass incomplete deep right to D.Westbrook

Was the run game inefficient? Absolutely. Fournette ran just four times for three yards combined in the fourth quarter. But when you’re predictable in your play-calling (runs on every first down) and you’re doing it out of a shotgun formation where your player is proven to be less productive, you’re asking for trouble.