The Jacksonville Jaguars won their season opener against the New York Giants with ugly offense, opportunistic special teams, and a defense that just would not go quietly into that good night.
With 2:21 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants offense took the field. It was 20-15 with the Jaguars leading but... we’ve seen this movie before, folks. Not typically with the quality of defense we have now, but old wounds are hard to mend.
But Sunday turned out different. The defense held, they bent but they didn’t break, and the Jaguars are now 1-0 because of it.
That drive is what we’ll be diving into this week as we break down the drive of the game for Week 1.
Play #1: 1st and 10 at NYG 19
The Jaguars defense starts out in soft zone, allowing Beckham to get an easy 21-yard gain between D.J. Hayden and Jalen Ramsey. Although it looks like Ramsey is the one to blame for this, there really is no blame. It’s prevent coverage — Eli Manning is going to get those for easy chunks.
Play #2: 1st and 10 at NYG 40
With the clock stopped and the two-minute warning coming up, the Giants opt to try a run play. After all, Saquon Barkley had the biggest play of the day... why not try again? The Jaguars have it sniffed out however, with Barry Church reading it all perfectly.
Play #3: 2nd and 9 at NYG 41
The Giants did this sort of thing all day long and it’s a big reason why Beckham ended with 11 catches for 111 yards. The natural pick play created by Beckham running the cross with Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack running into each other allows Beckham an easy 20-yard gain.
Play #4: 1st and 10 at JAX 40
And here we get to the “don’t break” part of this bend but don’t break Jaguars defense. The defensive line will really stand out in these next four downs, keeping Manning off balance and throwing passes that range from a little off to no chance.
The interior of the line is especially good these last few downs. After nearly 59 minutes of play, watch Malik Jackson sled block the left guard mere inches away from Manning.
Play #5: 2nd and 10 at JAX 40
Another run, another sad face.
Play #6: 3rd and 6 at JAX 36
Remember what I was saying about the defensive line? Yeah...
Lerentee McCray gets a great jump off the snap and it’s what’s got Manning worried first. He looks to the other side of the field and BAM there’s Malik again right in his face. The throw is off target.
Play #7: 4th and 6 at JAX 36
The defensive line won this game, but let’s also credit newly signed cornerback D.J. Hayden taking on Beckham on this play. Hayden stays with Beckham step for step and is helped out by Manning throwing under a lot of pressure.
McCray more than earned his pay check last week, getting another pressure on Manning on his most important pass of the afternoon.
The defense was the biggest reason for the win against the Giants and the defensive line was the reason the rest of the defense was able to flourish. And it’s a big reason why the line is the deepest, most talented position group on a roster that has quite a few deep and talented position groups.
Bend but don’t break all the way to the Super Bowl, Jaguars.