The Jacksonville Jaguars escaped the evil clutches of Nashville’s Flaming Thumbtack with their first win of 2013, made even sweeter against the arch foe Tennessee Titans. The final score was 29-27, and that two-point differential can be chalked up to a holding penalty in the end zone against the Titans that resulted in a two-point safety awarded to the Jaguars. The true star of the game at crunch time ended up being defensive back Will Blackmon, who stripped the Titans quarterback with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter and then returned the ball 21 yards for a victory sealing TD. Since it was the first win of both the season and coach Gus Bradley’s career, high fives and game balls were being tossed around to him and pretty much every other member of the team. Under normal circumstances, the game ball would have certainly been given to Blackmon for his clutch effort, because the rest of the team’s performance was, well…
I hate to rain on the Jaguars victory parade, but before we forge ahead with a festive, Jaxson Deville-led procession down Forsyth Street, we should examine a few very disturbing aspects of this game. After building a 20-7 lead in the third quarter on a 5-yard Todman TD scamper, the Jags only ended up winning by two points, this despite a plethora of Titan mistakes that included 4 turnovers. Late in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars did everything they could to try to snag defeat from the jaws of victory. The defense had absolutely no answer for Titans red-bearded back-up QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who almost lived up to his “Fitzmagic” nickname with a late come-from-behind win. Fitz shredded the Jaguars to the Music City tune of 264 yards and 2 TDs—as well as a four yard rushing TD—in a little over one half of play upon coming in for Jake Locker, who was lost for the season in the second quarter with a foot (Lisfranc) injury. The Titans scored twice in the final 4:15 of the game and, sans the fumble, clearly had all of the momentum on their side until the final gun was sounded shortly after Johnathan Cyprien’s recovery of the Titans’ onside kick attempt.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Jaguars were out-gained 362 to 214 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a paltry 41 yards at an awful 2.0 yards per carry clip and he and the offensive line couldn’t come anywhere close to grinding out the lead in what should have been a comfortable victory, what with the Titans backs against the wall after losing their starting QB. Jags QB Chad “Less Bad” Henne didn’t help matters by throwing yet another inexcusable interception that almost helped complete the Titans comeback late in the game. Statistically, Henne had one of his worst starts of the season, throwing for only 180 yards and two interceptions while not building a rapport with any of his receivers all afternoon. Yes, this was a win, but this was not “winning football.”
& The Ugly
I know it is sacrilege to think about victories in these terms, but there is also potential draft position fallout associated with this victory. Was this ugly, unimpressive win worth jeopardizing a more advantageous slot in the draft order? These are not fun things for fans to think about in the short term, but those are the sorts of things that a fan hopeful for future prosperity must ponder when the team has put itself into an insurmountable hole as the Jaguars have.
Sunday vs. Arizona Cardinals at EverBankThe Jaguars (finally) return home to face the Arizona Cardinals, who will challenge the Big Cats to a desert-style duel in Duval in front of what will hopefully be a rejuvenated Cowford crowd. The Cardinals are coming off an impressive upset win against the Houston Texans and, coming out of the NFC West, are a battle tested bunch who could give the Jaguars fits. Hot and cold safety John Cyprien will certainly have his hands full helping the Jaguars corners try to keep All-Star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in check.
If you are looking for some sort of victory goal for the Jaguars to reach for the remainder of the season, consider that—after the Buccaneers (1-8) defeated the suddenly crumbling Dolphins (4-5) last Monday night—the Jaguars now have a realistic shot at finishing the season with the best pro football record in the state of Florida.
As Dirty Harry would ask, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”