JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some of the same problems that have popped up in the recent past showed themselves in the Jaguars effort early in the game on the road against the Jets. Bad field position, bad special teams play and inconsistent offense, including some key drops gave the Jets momentum and the lead.
After a good three and out on defense to open the game, the Jaguars had some early success with the football, driving down the field and getting a field goal from Jason Myers to take a 3-0 lead. Important not only to get some points but to give the rookie kicker some confidence.
But on the ensuing kickoff, special teams problems jumped up in the form on Jonathan Cyprien losing contain and giving up a long kickoff return. A couple of nice plays by the Jets, including a middle screen and a back shoulder pass led to a TD pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick and a 7-0 lead. A "no-call" for holding against Jared Odrick allowed Fitzpatrick to escape the pocket and find an open receiver in the end zone.
On the next series, Blake Bortles inexperience surfaced as he tried to gun one in there on third down only to have it bounce off the receiver and up in the air for an interception. He either needed to eat it or throw it away and punt instead of trying something that risky. Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas all had drops in key situations in the first half stopping any kind of momentum the Jaguars might have built.
Taking advantage of the turnover, the Jets stuffed it in the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
It appeared the Jets owned the momentum as well as the two teams traded field position and punts under the two-minute warning.
That's when everything the Jaguars tried to do worked and lead to points right before the half. They stopped the Jets offense with some solid play up front on the defense. Using their timeouts wisely, they forced a punt, and put pressure on the punter, getting a short kick. With good field position, Bortles hit Hurns on a beautiful stop and go route, twice, the second time for a TD and a 14-10 deficit going into halftime.
But the momentum had shifted and the Jaguars got the ball back to start the second half. After an exchange of punts the Jaguars drove the ball down the field but got a bad break on a catch by Bryan Walters that was called an incompletion. Walters had both feet down, although it was close, and the replay clearly showed he was in bounds with possession of the ball. Nonetheless, Myers kicked the field goal to pull within one, 14-13. The rookie kicker is kicking from the left hash, even on PAT's, obviously more comfortable there.
Again the momentum turned, this time in favor of the Jets as they marched downfield to score a TD and take a 21-13 lead. A simple crossing route to the tight end accounted for a big chunk of the yardage. It appeared Telvin Smith was looking into the backfield as the receiver ran behind him to make the catch. Things were going the Jets way, even with their kicker injured, their punter clanged the extra point off the upright and through for an eight point lead.
Some nice throws by Bortles put the ball in Jets territory on the next possession and they actually tried to get it to Thomas in the end zone against one-on-one coverage. Why they didn't try that play a couple more times is still in question but it led to a FG, again from the left hash by Myers and a 21-16 Jets lead.
Some good defense got the ball back in the Jaguars hands and for the first time in the game TJ Yeldon was able to break free down to the Jets ten. That might be the one thing Yeldon can't do, break it all the way to the end zone with second level speed.
And that's where things fell apart.
Holding on Jeremy Parnell moved it back to the 20 and then Bortles was indecisive gliding along the line of scrimmage, got hit and fumbled, turning it over to the Jets. Bortles has to know his internal clock is running out and either run with it or throw it away. He's not a rookie any longer and even though he's trying to make a play, he has to be smarter than that.
But the defense forced another punt with just under five minutes to play, giving the Jaguars another chance. Instead, Nick Marshall fumbled the punt and the Jets recovered. They of course scored on a questionable replay to take a 28-16 lead.
That TD on the turnover is on the coaches. No way Marshall should be back there in that situation returning a punt. He's fumbled before, even in practice and while he does have breakaway speed, Bryan Walters should be in the game for a sure handed catch and an offensive possession to win the game late in the fourth quarter. Instead they give the undrafted free agent a chance, and he essentially finishes the game for the Jets.
In an ironic twist, the Jaguars scored in three plays, Walters making the sure handed catch in the end zone to pull within 28-23.
Two turnovers in the fourth quarter sealed the Jaguars fate in this one, again showing their inability to get out of their own way. Whether it's execution mistakes or coaching decisions that go awry, beating the opposition and overcoming your own problems is too difficult in the NFL even for the most experienced team. As young as the Jaguars are, with a small margin of error, until they stop making those kinds of mistakes, they're not going to win many games, especially on the road.
The road loss streak goes to 13 with Bortles still winless away from Jacksonville. They'll get another chance on the road at Baltimore next week before coming home on Thursday November 19th to play against the Mike Mularkey-led Titans.