Mark Brunell: How did Jags completely collapse in must-win game?


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Traveling to Dallas for the sixth game of the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars were facing a must-win, bounce back game against the ailing Dallas Cowboys after a disappointing game against the NFL-best Kansas City Chiefs.

One word comes to my mind, however, when looking back at the complete collapse of the Jaguars' offense, defense and special teams: How?!

The old adage that “defense wins championships” and “defense travels” normally holds true for the Jaguars' defense, highly regarded as the best in the league. After allowing almost 400 total yards, those old words of wisdom are thrown completely out the window.

What has happened to our defense? Multiple wide receivers left open with no pressure on the QB will not help you win football games. Slot WR Cole Beasley hauled in nine receptions for 101 yards and two scores. Considering Pro Bowl WR Tyreek Hill had only four catches last week in Kansas City and that Beasley is not even the No. 1 target on his own team makes this unacceptable.

If this team claims to boast the two best corners in the league in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, then they have to prove it week in and week out, not just some of the time.

In the past two weeks, the Jaguars' defense has also faced two of the best mobile quarterbacks the NFL has to offer in Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott. Allowing these QBs to run for first downs and to scramble to pick up chunk yardage kills any momentum the defense might have put together.

A third-and-long play is a great situation for any defense, but when a QB is able to scramble at will and convert that first down, you are left to wonder what is happening. Where are our Pro Bowl linebackers and Pro Bowl defensive linemen?

How is a QB able to escape the fastest linebacking core in the NFL and a front four known far and wide for sack production? Three sacks on the day is fine, but it certainly was not enough. QB pressure and ability to stifle any scramble yards should be paramount to the defense if shaky cornerback play is to continue.

On to the offense. There is a lot going wrong. The run game is stagnant and the pass game is incomplete. Just 149 yards through the air will not be enough going forward to allow the Jaguars to stand a competitive chance in any of their next games.

In victories this year, Blake Bortles has passed for 168, 220 and 377 yards respectively. In losses, those numbers dwindle to 145 and 139 (excluding the 430 yards he threw against the Chiefs on 61 attempts). If Fournette is to remain sidelined with his nagging injuries, the weight of the team falls on Blake’s shoulders. The run game no longer scares defenses into stacking the box with seven to eight men, forcing the Jags to rely on Bortles’ passing game, which as of late has been poor at best.

We all know an extremely talented quarterback is inside Bortles, as we saw in his late November/early December run last year and this year in his complete takeover of the Patriots. It will be of utmost importance for Blake to put these last two games behind him and move onto being the talented gunslinger we know he is capable of being.

Injuries are obviously a major concern for the Jags. Leonard Fournette, D.J. Hayden and key members of O-line all being banged up pose an issue for the team going forward, but it is not an issue that only they face. Every team, every year has faced these same problems and it will be on the players to overcome this adversity. Rushing the ball 18 times for 36 yards cannot be excused by saying that the O-line is hurt.

Every player is on that team for a reason, and when your number is called, it is on the player to make the most of his opportunity. The Jags will fall to 3-3 after their disappointing Dallas loss. We will have a home, divisional meeting lined up against the Texans for our next matchup.

This Texans team faces the same problems the Jaguars have and the same record. It will be interesting to see how the team responds after skidding like it has. A huge day should be in store for the defense against a quarterback in Deshaun Watson who is still trying to find the huge success he had in his rookie season.

It is not time to abandon ship just yet, but there are places of concern. What Bortles will we see next Sunday? What defense comes to play? Only time will tell.

But for now, and as always: Go Jags! 

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