Sam Kouvaris: Jaguars squander chances, lose to Ravens

Commentary by News4Jax sports director

It was a pretty forgettable first quarter for the Jaguars against the Ravens. Two first downs, two penalties and a bunch of punts that moved the field position around a bit.  The Jaguars got a couple of breaks thanks to Ravens mistakes but they looked sluggish and out of sync for the 5th quarter in a row. 

Quarterback Blake Bortles was still off, making a bad decision and a worse throw that led to an interception and killed the only offensive momentum the team had.

Despite giving up a Ravens TD on a Joe Flacco scramble, the defense seemed to have an idea against Baltimore and started to gain some momentum in the second quarter.  The offense did the same, taking advantage of another 40+ punt return by Rashad Greene and scoring to make it 10-7.

It looked like a good defensive stand for the Jaguars as the Ravens went into their 2-minute drill but Malik Jackson was called for roughing the passer on 3rd down and Dante Fowler was called for “leverage,” jumping over the tackle on a short FG attempt and gave the Ravens three points to trail at halftime 13-7.

If that’s the rule, that’s the rule, but Jackson’s hand touched Flacco’s helmet after the play and he was called for making contact. That’s not much, but it kept the drive alive. Fowler was called for jumping over the lineman, something he should know is illegal and it gave the Ravens three points. No matter if Fowler is fired up or just dumb, that’s the kind of thing that comes down to coaching.  If he doesn’t know the rule, he should.  If he does and did it anyway, he should be on the bench.

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Despite giving up a FG on the Ravens opening drive, the whole Jaguars team started to play better in the second half, making plays on both offense and defense.  Again, mediocre officiating kept the Jaguars at bay but they had a call overturned in the end zone for a TD to pull within 16-14.  Bortles gave himself up on a scramble and was hit on the ground but no call was made saying “the defender had committed.”  That’s baloney and every other QB in the league gets that call.  Bortles will get it eventually if the Jaguars start winning, but apparently not now. 

It takes some breaks to go your wan in any game and the Jaguars got on early in the fourth quarter when Devin Hester muffed a punt and Denard Robinson recovered at the 38-yard line.  Jason Myers kicked a 49-yard field goal to give the home team a 17-16 lead.  They had some chances on that offensive series but on 3rd and 1, Bortles had the ball batted down for the second time in the game forcing the FG try.

Off-season acquisitions paid off on the next series on defense.  Malik Jackson pressured Flacco into a bad throw that was tipped by Jalen Ramsey and intercepted by Tashaun Gipson.  None of those guys were on the Jaguars last year.  And that play wouldn’t have happened with last year’s personnel.

Another tipped pass at the line of scrimmage gave the ball back to the Ravens but Paul Posluszny jumped over Justin Forsett to intercept Flacco who was under pressure.  The officials huddled for an eternity before calling personal fouls on both teams including Jalen Ramsey. Somebody needs to tell the rookies that this is pro football.  Make a play and get off the field.

So here’s where good teams take advantage of the breaks and put the game away.  But the Jaguars looked tentative on offense both in their play calling and their execution in the following series.  Instead of rising up and asserting themselves, the Ravens took control. Bortles again suffered a sack, just about the only thing he couldn’t do in that situation, forcing Myers to attempt a 52-yard field goal. That was blocked and the Ravens had a chance to take the lead.

Methodically moving the ball in small chunks of yardage, they got it to the 37 where Justin Tucker blasted a 54-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 19-17 lead.

Still with 1:02 and a timeout left, the Jaguars only needed a field goal.  Instead, Bortles held the ball on second down and was sacked and was intercepted on third down to end the game.

This was a game of missed opportunities and turnovers as well as mediocre play by Bortles for the third week in a row. If he doesn’t step it up, or if other players on offense don’t pick him up, changes are in the offing for the team perhaps sooner rather than later.