Jacksonville Jaguars don’t know how to play with a lead

The Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31, but it never should have gotten that close.

Up 27-3 in the second quarter, the Bills began their long journey back in the game with a touchdown and field goal to go into halftime down 13-27. A 14 point lead is still multiple scores and that seemed to intimidate the Jaguars more than the Bills.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley and coordinators Greg Olson and Bob Babich stopped doing what was working and turned to a plays that were from some bizarro world as the Jaguars failed to mount an offense and a defense in the second half.

For the defense, it all began in the second quarter. After forcing back to back turnovers and the Jaguars coming away with 20 points, the defense seemed to let up. That led to the Bills’ touchdown before halftime. The trend continued in the second half, until the defense came up big with a fumble (called back as forward progress) and a pass deflection on fourth down to end the game.

The offense was even more bizarre. Leading by 14 with a full second half to play, the Jaguars came out and orchestrated a nine-minute drive that ended at the Bills’ one-yard line after four failed attempts to run it in behind “short yardage” back Toby Gerhart. It’s the kind of drive that should have yielded points, but was also beneficial because it took significant time off the clock.

The decision to go for it when up by 17 was costly and, together with the missed extra point in the second quarter, allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars to fall behind to the Buffalo Bills.

Starting with that one-yard line failure, the Jaguars offense became almost completely counterproductive. Rather than run time off the clock with T.J. Yeldon (who had over 100 yards at that point and finished the day with a 5.8 yards per carry average) the offense turned to Blake Bortles and a passing offense that stopped the clock with every incompletion.

Bortles finished the day just 13 of 29. That’s a sub-50 completion percentage. And each pass kept stopping the clock.

Here’s the play calling straight from the drives chart for the next two drives, starting after the failed fourth down from the one-yard line (summed up at the bottom):

1-10, JAX20(14:50) Blake Bortles incomplete pass to the middle intended for Allen Hurns defensed by Ronald Darby.
2-10, JAX20(14:45) Blake Bortles incomplete pass to the middle intended for Julius Thomas.
3-10, JAX20(14:42) Blake Bortles incomplete pass to the left intended for Allen Hurns.
4-10, JAX20(14:35) Bryan Anger punts for 49 yards. Denarius Moore return for 19 yards to BUF 50. Tackled by Bryan Anger.
4-10, 50(14:35) Penalty: Illegal Block on Buffalo (Randell Johnson) -10 yards.

1-10, JAX19(11:53) T.J. Yeldon rush to the left for 3 yards to the JAX 22. Tackled by Corey Graham.
2-7, JAX22(11:20) Blake Bortles incomplete pass to the right intended for Allen Robinson defensed by Ronald Darby.
3-7, JAX22(11:11) Blake Bortles incomplete pass to the right intended for Allen Hurns.
4-7, JAX22(11:07) Bryan Anger punts for 46 yards. No return.
4-7, BUF32(11:07) Penalty: Illegal Return OOB on Jacksonville (Nick Marshall) 5 yards.
That’s five passes and one run. What’s more damning is that’s it’s three straight passes right after the running game was proven to be a weapon for your offense and was eating up clock to keep the Buffalo Bills down.
It’s this type of play calling that frustrates everyone watching the game. It’s almost as if the Jacksonville Jaguars were looking for ways to hand the game away. That’s two drives that both took less than a minute of time off the clock. The first one took all of 25 seconds off the clock.
A lot has been said about coaching for the Jaguars and I think it’s clear the coaching is a serious problem. The play calling is an issue and it’s clear that there’s something amiss when they can’t return to what is working to keep the pressure on and close out games.
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