Mark Brunell: It wasn't perfect, but win #1 in the books

Jaguars strong D kept Eli Manning, unpredictable Giants contained


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Jaguars started their season exactly how they had hoped they would with a win against the New York Giants. And they won it exactly how we thought they would: with a strong defense. Two huge fourth-down stops and a pick six were enough to secure the first victory of the season.

The first of many!

The first game of the season has always made players and coaches uneasy. More than once you’ll hear somebody say “you just never know” in referring to the opener. And it's true.

The Jaguars played a team Sunday that they truly didn’t really know much about. Just how good would Saquan Barkely be as a pro? How much of a difference would Pat Shurmur make with this football team? Does Eli Manning still have anything left in the tank?

One thing for sure is the Giants are a good football team. They fought to the end and made it a closer game than most people thought.

This game honestly could’ve gone either way. Despite the defense controlling the Giants offense for most of the game, the Giants kept it close. Doug Marrone said in the post-game press conference that close games like that are really decided by only a handful of plays.

Fortunately, those few plays went in our favor. What if Abry Jones doesn’t get a hand on that Eli Manning pass and tip it up? What if Eli Manning throws a better ball to an open Odell Beckham Jr. open in the end zone? Sometimes winning a game simply comes down to getting a few breaks at the right time. We got the breaks on Sunday.

Of course, this team has a lot of work to do. If there is a critique about the Jaguars it would be the sloppy play. Too many penalties. We saw that in the preseason and it really does need to be addressed soon. You simply won't beat a team like the New England Patriots with over a 100 yards of penalties.

And there is the ongoing concern of turnovers. Blake did throw one INT and it led to a FG for the Giants. In a close game like yesterday, that could’ve been the difference.

The obvious concern is the health of Leonard Fournette. It didn't take a genius to notice how the offense started to struggle after his hamstring injury. Up to that point, Fournette had 41 yards and the offensive line clearly was getting the job done.

It's very simple; if the Jaguars are going to continue to win they are going to need a run game. I’m not saying that can't happen with Yeldon and Grant, but it,s going to be tough without #27.

The Jaguars are 1-0 and already leading the division. Was it a perfect game? No. Is there work to be done in certain areas? Absolutely.

We are quite a ways from being in mid-season form, but I think we can all agree that this team has a chance to be very special. And to win the opener on the road is HUGE!. It, of course, doesn’t get any easier.

The Patriots are next. Time for a little payback.

Go Jaguars!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Because of a Monday night football doubleheader, The Mark Brunell Show will air Tuesday at 7 p.m. on WCWJ-17.

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