Coach Jack Del Rio refused to blame Tony Brackens for the success of a toss-sweep play the Panthers used to kick-start their second-half rally Sunday, but Del Rio wasn't as kind toward Brackens' teammates.
"It was everything around (Brackens) that wasn't functioning," Del Rio said of the play, a short toss from quarterback Jake Delhomme to running back Stephen Davis, who used that play to gain 11 and nine yards on the Panthers' first two downs of the second half.
All of a sudden, a Carolina offense that had gained only one first down and 36 total net yards in the first half was on the go. The Panthers would rally from a 17-0 deficit to a stunning, 24-23 victory.
Special teams absorbed the other half of the blame for Sunday's defeat. To that end, the Jaguars waived rookies David Young and Joe Smith this afternoon. Young, a safety, was drafted in the sixth round and is the first member of this year's draft class to be cut. Smith, a running back, was an undrafted free agent. Del Rio said the team will attempt to sign "someone with 'gunner' ability," referring to a coverage role on punt and kickoff teams.
But back to the play that changed the game: toss sweep right. Eventually, the Panthers used it with some success to the left side of the field, but mostly it was to the right. On the play, the ball was pitched to the side opposite the tight end, who went into motion before the snap of the ball. By the time Davis turned up field, the tight end, Kris Mangum, had engaged linebacker Keith Mitchell in a block.
"We didn't execute. It's a simple play. It's simple to stop. We didn't do it," Del Rio told reporters during this afternoon's press conference.
Mitchell is taking much of the blame for the Jaguars' inability to defense the play, and Del Rio acknowledged that Mitchell "didn't do enough. He'll play better. He needs to play better," Del Rio said.
When asked if he will replace Mitchell in the starting lineup this Sunday against visiting Buffalo, Del Rio added: "We said we'll play the best players. We know he can play better."
Del Rio said responsibility on a perimeter play such as the toss-sweep rests with several players. "It's a combination of linebackers, secondary support and defensive linemen staying on their feet and moving to the ball. When it's a toss like that you involve a number of people," Del Rio said.
Brackens was in his first significant game action since the fifth game of last season. He is attempting a comeback from microfracture knee surgery and his tank was clearly on empty late in Sunday's game in Carolina. He played a total of 53 downs, though "the plan was 30-35," Del Rio said.
Of course, the Bills will notice on game tape the Panthers' success with that play and will likely test the Jaguars early in Sunday's game. "Any place you think there's a chink in someone's armor, you're going to see if they fixed it," Del Rio said.
Much will have to be repaired before the Jaguars can entertain any thought of upsetting a Buffalo team that dominated preseason favorite New England Sunday. "A lot of people are talking about them being in the Super Bowl," Del Rio said.
All indications are Sunday's game is headed for a TV blackout, which would be the first blackout of home opener in Jaguars history.
"The sad thing about having a blackout is there are a lot of people who can't make it to the game who won't be able to see it," Del Rio added.