JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The momentum was there but the Jaguars’ best offensive weapon wasn’t.
Sifting through the pieces of another disappointing loss on Monday, coach Urban Meyer said that he had confidence in the play call and the player in the game who was called on to make it.
But the result was too familiar. Another loss, this one to the rival Titans, that kept the Jaguars winless and the epic losing streak growing.
The big question Meyer had to answer this week — why the decision to go away from powerful running back James Robinson?
Fourth and goal on the 1-yard line. The Jaguars were trailing at the time, 31-19, but there was plenty of time left had they punched it in the end zone.
But James Robinson, in the midst of the best game of his career, wasn’t in the game at the time. The play call went to Carlos Hyde and it went for a loss.
The Jaguars’ 20th consecutive loss followed shortly thereafter. The bulk of that history-making losing streak occurred before Meyer’s time, but he has no doubt struggled in the adjustment to the NFL. Meyer said the Jaguars are “desperate” for a victory, with a trip to London this week against the equally struggling Dolphins (1-4) on tap.
The NFL game continues to prove a steep learning curve for Meyer.
Some weeks, the Jaguars appear on the cusp of a breakthrough. Others, the team appears to regress, with Meyer out of the coaching loop.
Why did the Jaguars, who stress a balanced offense, ease up on their best offensive weapon with the game on the line? Robinson had 12 carries at halftime and got just six the rest of the game. Meyer said on Monday that he didn’t know that was the case.
“He is playing really well. I didn’t realize that,” Meyer said of Robinson’s decreased workload after halftime.
“I’ll check after this, but there’s no intent other than if he gets a spell. I know after a long run they yank him to get his wind back. But he’s playing at a high level. He’s another competitive maniac.”
Robinson’s last offensive touch came on the second play of the fourth quarter. By the time Jacksonville dialed up the failed fourth-down play to Hyde, the teams had combined to run 11 more plays and burn nearly four minutes of game time.
That should have been plenty of time for Robinson to have had a breather and get back out on the field for what amounted to the play of the game. Meyer said he has the final say over plays but didn’t think that was one he needed to overrule because of his confidence in both players.
“Yeah, I do use the veto power quite often,” Meyer said. “In that situation, I saw Carlos and I trust Carlos. Carlos is running hard as well [as James Robinson] and I didn’t make the change. We were discussing the play and I did not make the change at the running back position.”
Why was that play so critical?
Jacksonville had polished off an 80-yard touchdown drive just four plays into the final quarter and held the Titans to a three-and-out on the ensuing drive. They’d gotten a 58-yard play from Lawrence to Laviska Shenault to get down to the Titans 12. Lawrence would have a 5-yard touchdown run overturned on replay, saying he’d gone down at the 1. TIAA Bank Field was rocking.
With one more play to try and cross the goal line, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called a pitch right to Hyde. The Titans shifted their defense toward that side of the ball before the play and Hyde had no shot. He was tackled for a three-yard loss. A touchdown there would have made it a one-possession game with 10 minutes, 20 seconds to play, a manageable deficit.
Meyer said that he likes the offensive identity and ideally wants a 250-250 split every game out.
“If you say, ‘What’s the identity of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense?’ It’s a physical offense that runs the ball and balances,” Meyer said. “Our goal is always 250 [rushing yards], 250 [passing yards]. I want to say we were 250 [passing yards] 200 [rushing yards]. That’s what we want to be.”
Jacksonville’s kicking situation remains in flux, Meyer said. Matthew Wright missed an extra-point attempt and hit the crossbar on a 53-yard field goal try. He remains locked in a weekly head-to-head battle with the struggling Josh Lambo. The Jaguars held Lambo out of the Week 4 game against Cincinnati for personal reasons and then gave Wright another chance on Sunday against the Titans.
The Jaguars remain the only team in the league to have not made a field goal.
“Yeah, it’s an open competition and we’re also searching. So, [Matthew] Wright slipped on the extra point and the 54-yarder hit the crossbar and I mean, that’s the … There will be some competition this week. But we’ve got to make a decision here.”