- 1.) David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew almost lost the game for us by accounting for six turnovers, but like leaders do, they put that behind them and won the game in crunch time. It’s hard to make light of six turnovers, but the box score does not tell the full story, as two of Garrard’s three picks were catchable balls that the intended receiver deflected into the waiting hands of the defense. There aren’t many days where your defense will only allow 3 points off of six turnovers, but Garrard and Jones-Drew have to get credit for stepping up big when time was tight. Mojo converted runs from 3rd-and-3 and a 4th-and-1 in enemy territory on the Jags’ “do or die” drive late in the fourth quarter. After driving to the 5 yard line and being sacked on first down and a Tiquan Underwood drop on second down, David connected on a gorgeous 14 yard strike to Marcedes Lewis to tie the game at 17. The defense surrendered a field goal on the Browns’ ensuing drive and with three minutes left, the Jags took the field down by three points on their own 13 yard line following a muffed kick return. David threw a quick first down to Kassim Osgood, then connected with MJD on a short screen that was taken merely inches from the goal line and punched in two plays later.
- 2.) The Jaguars’ growth along the offensive and defensive lines since last year’s match against Cleveland was striking. Despite the Browns’ acclaimed personnel on both lines, Jacksonville was visibly dominant in the trenches – paving the way for Jones-Drew to run all over, keeping Garrard decently protected, shutting down one of the most physical rushing attacks in the league, and posting a total of six sacks. Last year, it was the complete opposite – the Jags had no sacks and despite a complete inept passing attack, the Browns still managed over 200 yards rushing. Gene Smith and Jack Del Rio made a promise that days like that would be behind us. They are.
- 3.) The defense matched up against the Browns’ strengths and weaknesses perfectly – well, almost. Colt McCoy simply does not have an NFL arm. The Jags’ vulnerable spots (in cornerback and safety play) were unable to be exploited because McCoy was physically unable to hit us where it would hurt – outside the numbers and over the top. Knighton and Alualu had possibly their best day together as pros and took away the middle from Peyton Hillis all day, not allowing him a single rush over 6 yards. However, our linebackers did not have their best outing, which showed on big gains on QB runs and short passes to Hillis. Derek Cox missed the tackle on Hillis’ 47 yard gain, but Justin Durant was in coverage and though they played well much of the day, the linebackers were out of position, missing tackles, and getting blocked out of the play more than they should have been.
- 4.) They got it done when they had to, but the Offense hit a lull in the second half, much as it did last week. Against Houston, it was more of a bout of ineffectiveness and this week, it was more like actively trying to give the game away. But for two games in a row, the Jaguars’ have taken a lead into halftime and come out flat, scoring now points both weeks while surrendering double digits to both the Texans and the Browns. Obviously, the Jaguars need to make a concerted effort this week to keep the pedal down in the second half and come out of the locker rooms ready to hit the Giants’ in the mouth.
- 5. Two miraculous endings aside, the Jaguars are getting big breaks in the start of the second half of the season. Maybe this really is a team of destiny, like that ’96 squad that did so much more than anyone thought they could. But the Jaguars have gotten two big home wins and the turmoil within the division is making a division title seem like a real possibility. Houston is coming apart at the seams, finding ways to lose in the last minute, as they always seem to do under Gary Kubiak. The Vince Young fiasco in Tennessee closely resembles the plot of a Jersey Shore episode and it appears that the wary Jeff Fisher has given up on the volatile favorite son of owner Bud Adams once and for all. Young was placed on IR today and will likely never play another game for Tennessee (and may never be let back into their facilities). The fledgling rookie out of Florida Atlantic, Rusty Smith, will start for the Titans this week and with Kerry Collins injured, will likely stumble through a few games until Collins is healthy or Tennessee relieves him with a free agent signing. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Chokeartists, errr…Colts…are finding their own ways to lose games and can’t seem to keep any of Pickoff Manning’s, sorry…Peyton Manning’s…supporting cast healthy. There is a lot of football left to play and the Jaguars’ are not without their own injuries and struggles, but hey, it looks like we’ll have some exciting games to look forward to while we enjoy the Holiday Season.
Hope all of our readers out there have a very Happy Thanksgiving and hold on to your scarves, because who knows what this young bunch of rag-tags (of the highest character, of course) have in store for us.
– Andrew Hofheimer