JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser takes a final look at the week that was leading to the Jaguars' game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday
Nathaniel Hackett likes much about the Jaguars' recent offensive progress.
There is an exception. It's an important exception because it involves clutch play at clutch times, and it's an area the Jaguars' offensive coordinator would like to see improve in the coming weeks.
The Jaguars' offense often hasn't produced late in games this season, particularly with games in the balance. That's something Hackett wants to see changed.
"We've just got to find a way to finish it in the fourth quarter," Hackett said as the Jaguars (2-11) prepared to play the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (7-6) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Clutch fourth-quarter offense indeed has been an issue for the Jaguars all season, with their only fourth-quarter go-ahead touchdown coming when quarterback Blake Bortles passed 51 yards to wide receiver Arrelious Benn to give the Jaguars a 17-16 victory over Chicago in Week 6.
Hackett replaced Greg Olson as offensive coordinator two games later, and the fourth-quarter issues have continued in the last six games.
The Jaguars have started 17 drives in the fourth quarter during that span, scoring touchdowns on two of those drives – pulling to within three points with a fourth-quarter drive against Houston and pulling to within five points with a fourth-quarter touchdown against Kansas City.
The Jaguars have started 12 drives in the fourth quarter of the last four games, with nine of those drives coming with the Jaguars trailing by a touchdown or less.
They did not score on any of those drives.
"We've had opportunities in every single game with all kinds of different people out there on the field," Hackett said. "I mean it's changed dramatically since I've been at the helm here and we've had a chance to win. It's just about now hunkering down and finishing it."
You win in the NFL with clutch late performances. If Bortles and the Jaguars' offense could take a fourth-quarter lead with a touchdown sometime in the last three games, that could be a major step.
Running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) and center Brandon Linder (ankle) were removed from the injury report Friday, indicating they have a chance to play Sunday. Ivory missed the last two games and Linder missed a loss to Minnesota last week.
Wide receiver Allen Hurns (hamstring), running back Denard Robinson (ankle) and offensive guard Chris Reed (toe) all were ruled out Friday. Hurns will miss a third consecutive game and Robinson will miss a second consecutive game. Marqise Lee likely will start a third consecutive game for Hurns, and Robinson's absence leaves Ivory, Yeldon, Corey Grant and Bronson Hill at running back.
Second-year veteran Jeremiah Poutasi took reps for Reed at left guard during the week, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley on Friday said third-year veteran Luke Bowanko also is a possibility at the spot. Bowanko, a starter at center in 2014, spent the first 11 games on the physically unable to perform list with a hip issue.
Wide receiver Shane Wynn was added to the injury report Friday as questionable with a hamstring injury.
RUN, RUN, RUN
It's always smart to expect a heavy dose of the run from the Texans, but the Jaguars' defense expects a particularly heavy dose Sunday. The Texans – who rank No. 6 in the NFL in rushing – rushed for 181 yards as a team in a 24-21 victory at EverBank Field last month, and Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Houston has committed more to the run in the four games since. "They're not throwing it as much they did the first time we played them," Wash said. "They've had some great success the last four or five weeks running the football. They're putting it in [running back Lamar] Miller's hands.'' Miller, who rushed for 83 yards – including a 45-yarder – in the teams' first meeting, has rushed for more than 100 yards twice in the last four games. "They've adapted since the first time we've played them where Lamar Miller is getting more and more carries," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "It's definitely becoming even more of a run-first mentality. They're going to make it where the quarterback [Brock Osweiler] is in a position where he can make easy, smart decisions."
"You want to win the game by running the ball, but you score points by throwing the ball. That's the thing we got to get over the hump on, is getting those explosive plays, getting the ball in the end zone. We've done a good job in the red zone up to this point, but I think that the shots, the explosive plays are the things we just got to keep on amping up and keep on taking those opportunities."