JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in a 2021 Week 4 game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio:
The Jaguars put up a valiant effort against the Bengals in a last-second loss that failed to reward the team for its fight. Losing a 14-point halftime lead could destroy the team's confidence and self-esteem, but the Jaguars have shown enough resilience and grit to move forward without issue. That said, the heartbreaking loss will leave scars due to the blown opportunities and self-inflicted miscues that undermined a winning effort. The Jaguars' inability to deliver a knockout blow at the end of the first half (failed fourth-and-goal conversion) was followed by a defensive effort in the second half that featured too many big plays in the passing game. Although the Jaguars pushed the Bengals to the brink with a strong fourth quarter, the team's inability to get third-down stops (Bengals converted five of nine third-down attempts) kept them from chalking up a win in a primetime game.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Bengals outlasted the Jaguars in a white-knuckle affair decided in the final moments. Despite a terrific effort from a winless squad, the combination of big plays allowed and squandered scoring opportunities cost the Jaguars the game. While a 21-0 lead would have been nearly insurmountable, a three-score lead with a field goal heading into halftime could have reduced some of the anxiety the team felt in the second half. Moreover, the added cushion would have enabled the team to overcome a poor start to the third quarter without the game turning into a nail-biter. The defense certainly deserves some blame for failing to come up with critical stops in the second half. Coordinator Joe Cullen and Co. could not figure out how to defend the Bengals' empty formations, and the clever tactic enabled Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to get into a rhythm as a passer. In addition, the no-back sets exposed the deficiencies of the linebackers and defensive backs in coverage. With Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor mixing in enough heavy formation and power runs to keep the Jaguars off-balance, the Bengals scratched out a win utilizing tactics and strategy to overcome a poor start.
It is unfortunate the Jaguars could not close out the Bengals on a night that showcased the talent and potential of the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence played the best game of his young career while exhibiting the qualities and characteristics of a high-end quarterback. From his accuracy and ball placement to his athleticism and running skills, the Jaguars' QB1 put on a show that earned him high marks as a manager and playmaker at the position. Lawrence took care of the ball, kept the offense on schedule and made enough big-time throws to win the game. Sure, he could have found a way to fight into the end zone on the failed fourth-and-goal conversion, but the rookie made more than enough plays to the Jaguars to win. Although he was far from perfect in completing 17 of 24 passes for 204 pass yards without a touchdown or interception, Lawrence's solid game management and nifty playmaking skills reminded the football world why he was the No. 1 overall pick.
UNDER THE RADAR
Jaguars running back James Robinson's role has increased each week with the second-year pro taking on more duties as the workhorse in the backfield. He thrives with more touches as a high-volume runner with a rugged running style. Against the Bengals, Robinson set the tone for the offense with an 18-carry, 78-yard effort that included a pair of scores. The workmanlike performance showcased the vision, balance and body control that helped him churn out a 1,000-yard season in 2020. Robinson displayed a great feel for finding the crease in the middle of the defense on an assortment of power runs between the tackles. On each of his touchdown runs, it was Robinson's slithery maneuvers and hawk-eye vision that keyed the efforts. Those same moves helped the underrated playmaker burst onto the scene a year ago and they should convince the offensive staff to make Robinson a bigger part of game plan in the future.
The Jaguars' offensive staff put together its best game plan of the season against the Bengals. The offense got off to a fast start due to a call sheet that featured a mix of runs to Robinson and quick-rhythm passes from Lawrence. With the Jaguars also mixing in some zone-read plays and designed quarterback runs, the offense appeared to have a feel and flow that played to the quarterback's strengths. The offensive line held up against an energetic defensive front. The unit generated consistent push and played well in a game that featured a more run-centric approach. Although the goal-line failures will haunt the coaching staff and offensive line in retrospect, the overall performance of the frontline enabled the rest of the offense to thrive in prime time.
There is no disputing the effort and desire of the defense, but the performance fell short of expectations against the Bengals, particularly in the second half. Cullen's troops could not make a play or win the battle on third downs in a nip-and-tuck battle. Part of the unit's failures falls on the shoulder of the play-caller due to a faulty plan that did not feature a solid solution for the Bengals' empty formations. Cullen could not disrupt the timing of the passing game or fluster Burrow through various pressure or coverage tactics. The formation cracked the Jaguars' defensive code and enabled the Bengals' offense to get into a rhythm. The secondary also deserves some criticism for the inability to contain the Bengals' receivers, particularly on deep throws. The questionable ball skills from Tyson Campbell and others showed up in 50-50 situations along the boundary. In addition, the unit could not stop Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah in key moments. With three Bengals' pass-catchers combining for 20 receptions, 290 receiving yards, and two scores, the secondary must pick up its play to help Cullen make his game plans come to life.
Check out these top action photos from the Jacksonville Jaguars Week 4, Thursday Night Football, matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.