Today was yet another game in which the Jaguars couldn’t get in control, allowing the win-less Bengals, now 1-2-1, to come away with a 33-25 victory, giving Jacksonville a 1-3 record on the year, and no reason for a positive future of things to change. This is the second time in two weeks the Jaguars have lost to win-less teams (Miami Dolphins, 0-2).
It appeared the Jaguars would get off to a better start, at least on defense, this time around. At the start of the game Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone opted to take the ball rather than defer, allowing his offense to see the field first for the first time this season. The call to keep the offense on the field first ended up being for naught as quarterback Gardner Minshew II threw an interception on the fifth play from scrimmage.
“I mean, we’ve got to be able to make some plays, we’ve got to be able to coach them and get the guys better so they can win more of the one-on-one situations that we have,” Marrone said in post game when asked about the disappointment in not building momentum from a week 1 victory against the Indianapolis Colts. “It’s really on all of us, because I can’t ask more from the players and coaches because, like I said, it’s not from a lack of effort or lack of trying, it’s more of a lack of whether we execute.
While the team’s offense got off to a slow start, the defense held their own, holding Bengals running back Joe Mixon to just 12 rushes for 30 yards (2.5 yards-per-carry) in the first half, and ultimately surrendering just 10 points at halftime. Entering halftime, Jacksonville possessed a 3 point lead by way of a pair of field goals by newly-signed kicker Aldrick Rosas and a back-of-the-end-zone touchdown reception by DJ Chark Jr.
It would be in the second half, however, that the Jaguars’ defense sunk back into what it has done all season, surrendering far too many yards, and simply not executing, according to Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones.
“I think the most obvious changes was really just execution,” said Jones in post game. “I think they came out and they had an emphasis on trying to run between the tackles and things like that. We did a good job of bottling that up and really restricting the run game and then in the second half, they really just started hitting one way and cutting back and really testing our responsibilities and we didn’t execute properly.
“I mean every man on defense has a gap and we have to be able to trust every man on that field to make that play when it comes to him.”
Against Mixon in the second half, the Jaguars allowed the fifth-year rusher to run for 121 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. It was just the sixth time Joe Mixon has ever rushed for 120 or more yards in a game, and the fourth time he’s ever had two touchdowns and 120 or more yards in a game.
With 121 rushing yards in the second half, that marked the best rushing performance in a single half in his short four-year career.
Following an injury to linebacker Myles Jack (ankle), the Jaguars couldn’t get out of their own way in the second half, although, Jones doesn’t feel like that’s an excuse at all.
“I’m going to tell you honestly, it was already a drop a little bit,” Jones said when asked if he felt injuries were part of the issue with the run defense in the second half. “We didn’t really come focused in that second half, but we never want key players getting hurt. Myles [Jack] has been doing a tremendous job coming downhill and making plays on running backs, so he’s definitely going to be missed if he leaves.”
Jones says cornerback D.J Hayden’s (hamstring) injury hurt because he’s not afraid to go up and make a tackle, but that it’s the NFL and next man up.
“Next man has the same dream as the first man to make it in this league so if someone goes down, you have to make that play or they’re going to find someone who’s going to make it for you.”
Overall, the Jaguars offense appeared to be heading on the right track, though, they didn’t execute at the right time. Minshew completed 27 out of 40 of his passes for 351 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned interception on the day. Running back James Robinson had another successful day, rushing 17 times for 75 yards, while hauling in four receptions for 32 yards. Robinson also had a 40-yard run called back due to a hold.
Near the end of the game, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone opted to go for two after Chark’s second touchdown reception of the day. Down by 14, the Jaguars opted to attempt to go down by six rather than give the Bengals a more comfortable seven-point lead on their ensuing drive. According to Marrone, this was done by looking at the numbers.
“So going for two, you look at it, the time of the game, six minutes, it gives you—you know, analytically, it’s the better chance of winning the football game if you go for two right there,” Marrone said in post game. “I think with the way the game was going, if you get it now he’s trying to put pressure on them for a different ball game. Now you’re going for the win, which is going to be aggressive, so it gives you a better chance to win the football game. That’s why we went for two.”
In post game, Chark offered the same reasoning as Marrone, indicating that it could have put the Bengals in a tougher position.
“I love it, but me loving it doesn’t change the fact that we have to get it,” Chark said when asked if he liked going for two near the end of the game.
“But whatever the play is called, whatever’s called, we have to execute. It was there, we just have to make it happen. If we would have gotten it, maybe that would have changed the offensive approach for the Bengals. Maybe they would have been more cautious and maybe we could have made those plays and had a chance to make it a tie game.”
Trailing 33-22 and just 1:46 remaining in the game, the Jaguars had one last opportunity to make it interesting. Taking the football 53 yards to the Bengals’ 12-yard-line, Jacksonville was forced to kick a field goal prior to their onside kick opportunity. However, the team let the clock get down to eight seconds remaining, making any attempt following a successful recover a long pass downfield.
Marrone stated following the game he should have made it known to spike the football with around 30 seconds remaining to give his team a better opportunity if they were to have recovered the onside kick.
“I think where I would’ve liked to get the spike—the spike, you usually want to use the spike and kick the field goal with 30 seconds,” said Marrone. “And I wanted to take a shot—you know, it’s hard because it’s easy for us to sit on the sidelines and say, ‘Hey get it in the end zone, throw it in the end zone.’ We got it down to [Keelan] Cole and that situation, looking back, I probably should’ve told Jay [Gruden] to tell them to spike it there.”
When the Jaguars had no other option, Marrone decided in the end it was the only decision they could make.
“So I thought at that time I could’ve done a better job there, but I made a decision to go for it there because that was the only chance we had, really, of kicking the field goal, onside kick and a Hail Mary. If you go for the touchdown, you get the onside kick and I don’t know if you’re going to have enough time.”
Ultimately, the Jaguars failed to come away with much in the way of motivation on either side of the football today. While the offensive stats do not illustrated the offensive struggles the team had, the defensive stats surely do. Next week, the Jaguars will attempt to bounce back AT the win-less Houston Texans (0-4), a game that could decide who will hold the crown as the fourth-best team in the AFC South.
Marrone indicated following the game he did not have any further updates on any of the injured players for the Jaguars, though he did give an indication of what the injuries were:
LT Cam Robinson (knee)
CB CJ Henderson (shoulder)
CB DJ Hayden (hamstring)
LB Myles Jack (ankle)
WR Laviska Shenault Jr. (hamstring)