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Sam: Jaguars models of inconsistency, fall to Jets in OT

New York Jets Elijah McGuire, left, runs it for a touch down during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York Jets Elijah McGuire, left, runs it for a touch down during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the sixth straight game, the Jaguars offense scored on its first possession. That’s a franchise record. It’s also the fourth straight game that Leonard Fournette had scored a TD. He’s the first Jaguar to score in his first four games as a professional. 

In Jaguars' opening drive, Blake Bortles was efficient and accurate, converting a long third down along the way and hitting Fournette quickly on a rollout for the touchdown. It’s just what the Jaguars were looking for -- a continuation of the way they played in London.

But this was a different week, different game and a different opponent.

On a weird play on their second possession, the Jets' Bilal Powell tripped at the line of scrimmage and fell down. The Jaguars thought he’d been tackled but there was no whistle. So Powell jumped up and ran 75 yards for a touchdown to tie it up 7-7.  

After a brilliant series of play calls blending the run and the pass, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett got away from that sequence and started asking Bortles to drop back and throw it downfield. They had some success with that last week but the Jets had those routes covered and the offensive line wasn’t up to the challenge New York was presenting with a pass rush. So from an accurate, efficient quarterback early on, Blake looked like the Blake of old. 

Rushed, off-target and a bit skittish in the pocket, Bortles' production dropped dramatically. A bunch of scrums on both sides of the line of scrimmage and a fair share of mistakes toward the end of the second quarter made it 10-10 at halftime.

It continued in the second half until another blown “fit” on defense allowed the Jets to break their third long run of the day. This time it resulted in a 68-yard TD and a 17-10 lead.

“This isn’t the ‘same old Jaguars’” is what Bortles has been telling us all year long. But he looked the part when his pass inside the 20 was tipped at the line of scrimmage and returned to the 7. Holding New York to just three points there was big as the Jets kicked a field goal to make it 20-10.

It didn’t look like the Jaguars offense had enough firepower to come back from 10 points down, but the defense had other ideas.  A pass by the Jets was ruled a lateral and Myles Jack picked it up and ran 81 yards the other way for a TD. After review, the call stood and the Jaguars were back in the game in the fourth quarter. Jack is the only player on the front seven on the defense who could have outrun the Jets for a touchdown.  That made it 20-17, New York.

One thing the Jaguars didn’t have in the last five years was a defense that created opportunities.  That’s changed this year with pressure on the quarterback and players who are looking for the ball.  Free-agent acquisition A.J. Bouye intercepted a Josh McCown pass when the receiver fell down giving the Jaguars a chance to pull ahead.  

Although Leonard Fournette scored on a screen pass, Aurileus Benn was called for a holding at the seven and the Jaguars did nothing on three downs. They kicked a field goal to tie it at 20 and send the game into overtime.  The Jets did get the ball and there was good pressure from the defensive line, McCown recovered a strip sack from Dante Fowler.

In overtime, the Jaguars defense did its job, backing the Jets defense up and giving the offense the ball at the 50-yard line where a field goal would win it. But Marqise Lee dropped a perfectly thrown ball by Bortles on third down and the Jets got the ball back. Those kinds of drops are the plays that separate a consistent, solid football team with one that’s hanging on looking for a win.

As things usually happen in the NFL, when a mistake like that happens, the other team is good enough to take advantage of it. Except the Jets were held to a three-and-out and the Jaguars forced a punt.

That’s when another miscue by Marqise Lee let the punt go 70 yards. Add to that a block in the back by Benn, and you have a bad day for both of them. The Jaguars had the ball at the 3 but couldn’t move it.  Brad Nortman came up with a decent punt but in Jaguars form for this game, Paul Posluszny was called for unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of the play, putting the Jets in field goal position. Three plays later they kicked the game-winning field goal to gain a 23-20 victory.

This game was all over the place for the Jaguars. We still don’t know what kind of team they are.  We do know when they run the football, as they did early, it allows Bortles a little breathing room and keeps the opponent's defense off balance.  But after the first drive, they tried something different.  And it didn’t work.

They looked great on their first drive; they looked great on defense in the fourth quarter. But for all the talk of consistency by Doug Marrone and the players this week, they were anything but throughout the rest of the game. Much like the game against the Titans, the plays were there. They just didn’t make them. “Winning” the first quarter of the season fell to a 2-2 start with another road game next week at Pittsburgh.