Sam Kouvaris: Jaguars win AFC South, lose game, poise in SF

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass under pressure from Myles Jack #44 of the Jacksonville Jaguars
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass under pressure from Myles Jack #44 of the Jacksonville Jaguars (Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Maybe they were scoreboard watching, or just jet lagged, but the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers was one of the worst 15 minutes the Jaguars have played all year. While opening drives usually don’t mean much because they’re scripted, the Niners made it look easy on their opening possession, scoring without much protest by the Jaguars to take a 7-0 lead. 

After a three-and-out by the Jaguars' offense, Jimmy Garoppolo had no trouble on SF’s second drive, which led to a field goal to take a 10-0 lead. That score was followed by a small dustup on the Jaguars sidelines, and Malik Jackson and Aaron Colvin had to be separated. What they were arguing about is unclear, but whatever it was, they both felt pretty strongly about it.

From bad to worse, Blake Bortles’ pass to Keelan Cole was a bit behind him, tipped in the air and intercepted for a touchdown by the Niners to take a 16-0 lead. Looking to make it 17-0, the PAT was blocked by the Jaguars and returned for a safety, making the score 16-2.

There was another disagreement on the sideline involving Cole, wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell and Allen Hurns. Cole apparently stopped running his route and that led to the interception. Nobody liked that but Keenan seemed to get the rookie straightened out right away. Growing pains for a team that not used to winning, or a team that’s not used to being abused?

IMAGES: Jags fall 44-33 to Niners

Either way, maybe that was the momentum shift they were looking for, because the Jaguars made things happening right away on offense after that.  

It was disjointed, but the offense got down the field using Bortles arm and the running game to make it 16-9. Leonard Fournette scored on a 1-yard run for the TD. After a Barry Church interception in the end zone on a great effort, the Jaguars overcame a first and 20 situation at their own 10-yard line to march down the field and score the tying TD right before half. Bortles was sharp and the TD pass was lucky, bouncing out of Fournette’s hands and into Jaelen Strong’s arms in the end zone for six, tying the game 16-16 at half.

It was a furious comeback and also a personality check for the Jaguars after playing so poorly to start, and having a dysfunctional sideline in the first 30 minutes. While Bortles showed he could get the job done, Garoppolo exposed some weaknesses in the Jaguars top-ranked defense, getting rid of the ball quickly and hitting cutting receivers before they were covered. He’s a quarterback the Jaguars seriously considered taking in the Bortles/Lee/Robinson draft, so they know a lot about him. That means they know he’s good and has gotten better sitting on the bench behind Tom Brady for four years in New England. 

Getting the ball to start the second half, the Jaguars didn’t do much, but the 49’ers did. After a Josh Lambo FG made it 19-16, the Niners took over, scoring three unanswered touchdowns that included two Bortles interceptions to take a 37-16 lead. In that stretch, the Jaguars looked like the fans' “fragile” confidence in the team and their quarterback was justified. They didn’t have the composure you’d have thought coming into a game with 10 wins. Eleven penalties over the first three quarters showed a team that needs a maturity check to get somewhere in the postseason. 

They did have a run at the end of the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns sandwiched around an onside kick, but Josh Lambo hit the right upright after the second touchdown, making it a four-point difference. A Malik Jackson unsportsmanlike penalty gave San Francisco great field position as they scored the final points of the game to make it a 44-33 final.

With the loss, the Jaguars fell back to the no. 2 or 3 seed. They’re currently third and can only get to the second spot if the Steelers lose their last two games and the Jaguars beat Tennessee next week. 

No matter what, head coach Doug Marrone won’t be pleased with what happened on the West Coast and will be looking for a lot more next week in Nashville.