The last two games have been a tale of two sides of the ball. Whereas the defense could do no right in last week’s high-flying 34-27 loss on the road to the Carolina Panthers, it was the offense that looked as inept as they had all season in yesterday’s 13-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Only 11 first downs.
Converting just 28.5% of their third downs.
A measly 226 yards of total offense.
And when Gardner Minshew was tasked with pulling another rabbit out of his hat, his hand came up empty. This was his “rookie game” and he knows it.
“Yeah it was a tough day,” Minshew said shortly after the game. “They are a good team. I missed some balls that I can’t miss. They played good coverage at times and got after us up front at times. We’ll go look at the film and figure out what we need to fix ... I was off. We’re going to get that fixed.”
Minshew was the most glaring problem for an offense that managed just 4.1 yards per play and six points on the day. He looked out of sync with his receivers most of the day and never found a rhythm.
But the ground game couldn’t get anything going either. Leonard Fournette ran for just 72 yards on 20 carries and while I’d like to see more production from him, a lot of the blame lies at the feet of the interior offensive linemen who could not get off their blocks and make a push like they needed to yesterday.
All that added up to a Jacksonville team that went three-and-out in four of its first five drives and couldn’t score any points until there was 2:41 left in the second quarter. Their average drive wasn’t even 23 yards. It was an awful day by them.
Props to the defense, however. Teddy Bridgewater was underwhelming and Alvin Kamara was obviously more hampered by his ankle injury than the Saints team let on, but they played as well as they could and didn’t allow a touchdown until there was 11:49 left in the fourth quarter. They held New Orleans running backs to 75 yards on 19 carries and had a bend-but-don’t-break attitude towards Michael Thomas who finished with 8 catches for 89 yards and an 11.1 yards per catch average. Three sacks. Seven tackles for a loss. Four quarterback hits.
On a day where the offense can just be average, that’s a defensive performance that contributes to a win.
But the offense was far, far below average yesterday.
If this is Minshew’s rookie game, fine. I’ll take it. We’ll move on and have better days ahead. But my fear is that the Saints drew up a blueprint for how to beat Minshew — contain him in the pocket, double-team DJ Chark, and force him to make throws to his secondary targets.
This coming week against the Cincinnati Bengals is a great opportunity for a bounce back game. Let’s see if Minshew and the rest of the offense take it.