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Jaguars fall short in other phases


NASHVILLE--Seven seasons ago, this would've been acceptable. Then, to have played as competitively as the Jaguars have played the last two weeks would've been good enough, even in defeat.

But this isn't 1995. This is not an inaugural-season team attempting to lay the foundation for the Jaguars' future. This is a team of veteran players, a few of them graduates of '95, who wanted this season to be their crowning glory.

It almost certainly will not be that kind of season, unless the Jaguars rally as no team ever has. Jimmy Smith, one of three current Jaguars from the '95 team, nodded in agreement.

"I was just thinking about that," Smith said. "This is really tough for me. To be 2-5? We have way too much talent for that."

It has become a weekly refrain: too much talent. On offense, yes, but obviously there are deficiencies in other areas, specifically on defense, which collapsed with the game on the line for the third consecutive game.

What are we to make of this team? What's wrong with it? Why has it blown 17-6 and 17-7 leads on consecutive Sundays?

One week shy of the midway point in this season, there is evidence to support the following conclusions:

• The passing game remains the strength of this team. On the days it gets any kind of support from the run-offense or the defense, the Jaguars win; on the days it doesn't, it loses.

• With Fred Taylor out of the lineup, the Jaguars' running game has regressed to an embarrassing level of performance.

• The defense has fallen sharply in the league rankings but, more importantly, it has played its worst football at the most critical times of the game.

So what is the sum analysis of the above facts? Well, if the run-offense, pass-offense, run-defense and pass-defense each represent 25 percent of the total game, then the Jaguars are currently 75 percent incomplete, which makes the team's record very explainable.

"It is demoralizing to watch the other guy take the ball and drive it the length of the field," coach Tom Coughlin said.

Meanwhile, quarterback Mark Brunell has to be dejected by the Jaguars' nearly total inability to offer a balance between run and pass. For the second consecutive week, the Jaguars all but completely disregarded the run, though they were in the lead.

With a 17-7 lead, the Jaguars opened the second half with an end-around run by Alvis Whitted. It gained four yards. It would also be the last time the Jaguars would attempt a rushing play until 12:41 remained in the fourth quarter.

The Jaguars attempted only four running plays in the second half, compared to 18 pass attempts. That is not balance, though Coughlin is a coach who has long preached that balance is the key to victory.

So why has he abandoned his most fundamental belief? Very simply, the coach has lost all confidence in his offense's ability to make a rushing attempt anything more than a wasted down.

This has become a completely one-dimensional team. It has to throw the ball to score and it must score at a pace relative to that which the defense is permitting the Jaguars' opponent to score, Maybe, just maybe, if the Jaguars are lucky they'll get the ball last and with enough time left on the clock to make a final push to victory.

Sunday, in Tennessee, 44 seconds was not enough time to go 80 yards.

"The Titans moved the ball and we didn't move it enough," Brunell said.

Yeah, that's a perfectly logical analysis, if you subscribe to the theory that everyone else on the field but the quarterback and the wide receivers are unnecessary to the game. Unfortunately, it's not that way.

Gimmicks and gadgets are great, and the Jaguars executed the no-huddle offense as though they were the 1990 Buffalo Bills, but it wasn't enough to beat the Titans because what is best about the Jaguars is being sabotaged by that which is the worst about the Jaguars, which is to say the other three most important phases of the game.

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