The Jacksonville Jaguars played probably their most boring and frustrating game of the season in Sunday’s 13-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Neither team’s offense really had any big plays or anything super exciting happen, but just threw themselves at the other team’s defense until something leaked, and for the Saints it happened to be tight end Jared Cook in the back of the end zone.
The Jaguars defense bounced back from their poor showing the week prior against the Carolina Panthers, bottling up Saints running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. The big problem was the Jaguars offense just couldn’t seem to get out of their own way and seemed off from the start.
Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II easily had his worst day as a pro, finishing 14 of 29 for 163 yards and an interceptions, but probably could have at least one more pick. Minshew seemed uncomfortable from the beginning and his wide receivers did him no favors getting open, but that’s exactly how the Saints planned to defend the rookie sensation.
“I think it was a good job by the coaching staff putting together a plan for our front to keep him contained, keep him in the pocket, taking away his hotspots,” Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game. “We knew where he felt most comfortable and to try to take that away from him. It was a good job all the way around. I think our coverage guys did a great job of taking away the first read, taking away the second read and just getting the victory today.”
A lot of the good plays Minshew makes come when he’s leaving the pocket and the others are quick timing throws, but the Saints disrupted both of those on Sunday and the Jaguars offense ground to a halt. New Orleans also took away the Jaguars leading receiver and Minshew’s favorite target in D.J. Chark, forcing another Jaguars receiver to beat them and it just didn’t materialize.
“When they covered us, they were in Cover 2 man [coverage] throughout the game. Personally on my end, Marshon Lattimore did a very good job by covering me along with the safety which made it harder for me to run my routes on my end of the field,” Chark said after the game. “We had to change up the play scheme and get to the middle of the field, but they had a pretty good defensive game plan coming into the game and not giving up too many yards to our offense.”
The Saints had a similar game plan against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the week prior, erasing wide receiver Mike Evans from the game, holding him to zero receptions on three targets. The biggest difference last week however, was the Bucs had someone named Chris Godwin on the other side of Evans to win battles and get open, hauling in seven receptions, over 100 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Simply, the Jaguars don’t have a Chris Godwin to compliment Chark on the other side and a lot of the short quick passing that guys like Dede Westbrook are good at, the Saints took away playing tight coverage and funneling everything where they wanted it to go. You had the combination of the rookie quarterback being off and the receivers not getting any separation and it resulted in a putrid offensive performance.
While some are panicking about Minshew’s magic ending, I’m fully expecting a bounce back game from him against the Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, a lot of teams are going to try to replicate what the Saints did against Minshew and people will claim he got figured out, but not everyone has the talent on defense the Saints do.
You also have to consider the fact that it felt like the Jaguars played right into the Saints game plan, tightening things up and constantly putting the quarterback in third down situations where he had to make a play. It seemed the Jaguars knew what the Saints were going to try to do and played right into it.