As we looked at the much more impressive first half Jaguars performance yesterday, it occurred to me that the second half lacked something that the first half had so much more of: energy. As much as I think that Russell Allen is a tad too late far too often on plays, he easily has the most boundless (or so it seems) energy when he’s on the field. The guy is bouncing up and down, he gets excited after planting an opponent into the ground, he looks like he’s having fun all the time. Yet even he was beat down by the Bears on Sunday; submitted to the continuous pounding that Matt Forte and the Bears’ offensive line dished out.
The 31 rushing attempts by Bears running backs finally got to the Jaguars in the second half. Forte was averaging over six yards per attempt at one point and never appeared to slow down. The front four for the Jaguars did not appear able to clog the middle and Bears running backs consistently made it to the second level when they touched the ball. The lack of energy slowly mounted to exhaustion and the Bears were able to use this to their advantage, forcing the Jaguar corners to make plays in both the pass and run game. This is especially apparent in Brandon Marshall’s fourth quarter 24-yard touchdown that say Derek Cox a few yards behind him the entire play, largely because the Jaguar front seven couldn’t stop the run and he had to respect this and recognize he could be needed elsewhere. It didn’t help that safety Dwight Lowery left the game with an injury.
While the Bears could exploit apparent exhaustion of the Jaguars defense, the Jags couldn’t seem to get anything going on offense.
For the third time in five games, the Jags were shut out in the fourth quarter. They have been outscored 53 to 20 in the fourth quarter thus far this season – 15 of those points have come from two last minute catches by Cecil Shorts. It’s almost as if the team hits a wall when the end of he third quarter occurs. When re-watching the game the receivers suddenly aren’t making the same grabs that they were before. Cecil Shorts suddenly becomes a non-factor despite consistently getting open in the first half. Blaine Gabbert can’t hit the same throws he was hitting so easily before. I’m starting to think that this team doesn’t have an “all four quarters” mentality.
Maurice Jones-Drew couldn’t set the tone for the offense in the first half and that hurt the team in the second half. Without a rumbling MJD who could punch holes through the defensive line, the Jags could not justify the play action pass or deep drop-backs for longer routes. There was a lack of respect for the offense on the part of the defense. That is on the Jags for not getting in there and pushing the Bears around. Yet I thought that the play calling was much better in this game. It’s tough to admit, but the Bears simply had the better matchup in the trenches. While Forte could consistently get to the second level when he touched the ball, MJD couldn’t do the same for the Jags.
It’s a tough time when you play the game close but a few mistakes revitalize a defense, electrify the offense, and the talent difference between the two teams finally becomes apparent. Credit to the Jags for keeping in contention through most of the game, but there is more than one half to a football game. This team needs to learn that soon and be more prepared when the going gets rough.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims