LONDON – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley Stadium in London
1.The Jaguars’ defense deserves credit for creating early turnovers, but that won’t be how this unit remembers a 24-18 loss. Instead, the group will blame itself for allowing two second-half touchdown drives, particularly a 95-yard drive to start the third quarter. “We can’t give up that third-quarter first drive,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. The unit, playing without All-Pro cornerback A.J. Bouye, snapped its two-game streak of not forcing a takeaway early. That came when linebacker Telvin Smith recovered a fumble Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz off a sack by defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. That set up an early 51-yard field goal by Josh Lambo, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey ended the Eagles’ next possession with an interception off Wentz in the end zone. But the defense allowed three touchdowns after that – a 44-yard second-quarter drive, a 95-yard third-quarter drive and a 75-yard fourth-quarter drive. “The offense played impeccable today,” Jackson said. “We told ourselves our season was on the line. We played hard; don’t get me wrong. But we have a defense that’s good enough to stop teams from going up and down the field and getting points. We let them do that. We lost by six points. That one drive cost us the game. Everybody’s talking about offense and what they’re not doing. You can’t say that today.”
2.This was a weird offensive game for the Jaguars, but Jackson was right: the offense in the second half played well enough to get the Jaguars back in the game – and nearly well enough to win it. First, the weird part: after talking throughout the week of returning to playing to its run-first, physical identity, the Jaguars’ offense had just nine called run plays Sunday. Newly-signed running back Carlos Hyde carried six times for 11 yards and T.J. Yeldon rushed twice for seven yards. “You’ve got to give credit to Philly,” Marrone said. “We could never get that thing going, couldn’t get it established. That’s what you need. You need to start establishing it. … It didn’t look like we were able to establish anything early.” Quarterback Blake Bortles passed on the team’s final 31 offensive plays and didn’t run in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars’ offense, after 90 yards and four first downs in the second half, had 245 yards and 12 first downs in the second half. They also had their most impressive drive in a month – a 75-yarder that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dede Westbrook. So, this was an effective day at times – but a weird one.
3.Give the Jaguars overall some credit Sunday: they fought – gallantly – but it wasn’t enough. When the Eagles took a 17-6 lead early in the third quarter, it felt very much like the game was getting away from the Jaguars. But the Jaguars followed the Eagles’ second touchdown of the game with the aforementioned touchdown pass to Westbrook. The offense continued pressuring throughout the second half, narrowly missing a second touchdown pass two possessions later when rookie wide receiver D.J. Chark dropped a would-be touchdown pass that would have cut the Eagles lead to 24-22. The Jaguars were close Sunday. They didn’t quit when it appeared the game was getting out of hand. And it was indeed a day when the team fought through more injuries and nearly won. But this wasn’t supposed to be a season when fighting was enough. They’re still 3-5. Sunday was still a fourth consecutive loss. And the season is still very much in jeopardy.
1.At one point during the fourth quarter as the Jaguars were settling for field goals in the Eagles red zone it was painfully obvious that their offense is undermanned. Doug Marrone told the media that the game wasn’t on Blake Bortles and when you see tight end David Grinnage dropping the ball, running back Carlos Hyde not looking for the ball, wide receiver DJ Chark not catching the ball and left tackle Josh Walker desperately trying to protect the quarterback you see all you need to know. None of those guys were part of the plan coming out of the preseason and all were playing in key roles against the defending Super Bowl champions in London. Marrone made the call to go with Bortles this week and it nearly paid off with opportunities late the game. Bortles threw for 286 and ran for 43 and perhaps his only fault was he couldn’t catch his own passes or throw his own blocks. He isn’t an elite quarterback but he gave a huge effort today.
2.The Jaguars trailed 10-6 at halftime and 17-6 midway through the third quarter but only called two running plays in the second half. When did we think the Jaguars could win playing that style of football? If they have any chance to get back into the playoff chase, and let’s be honest, it’s going to be for a Wild Card, they’re going to have to get Leonard Fournette back on the field and build a rotation with TJ Yeldon and Hyde.
3.The defense looked closer to its’ old self today than it has since their last win in September against the Jets. Sacks, takeaways and a fourth quarter stop to set up their last field goal. But there were more opportunities to give the ball back to the offense and they couldn’t. The Eagles appeared to take advantage of the Jaguars aggressiveness with the screen game and run/pass options. Late in the game however it was just power running and Malik Jackson appeared most unhappy with their inability to get the ball back one more time.