Jacksonville Jaguars crumble vs. San Francisco 49ers, but still clinch AFC South Crown
An afternoon of mixed emotions, as the Jacksonville Jaguars face plant against the 49ers but clinch their first ever AFC South title.
Let’s start with the bad on Sunday. And it was bad.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have notoriously had troubles on the west coast, and that was prevalent on Sunday. Jacksonville dug themselves into a 16-0 hole in the first half, and after gaining their first lead of the game in the third quarter, completely collapsed. The team battled late, but wasn’t nearly enough in 44-33 defeat.
It was as mistake-filled and undisciplined a game as the Jaguars have played this season, and a game that leaves a bitter taste on what should have been a day of celebration.
A few takeaways from the loss:
Back to Earth Bortles
Before today, Blake Bortles was Mr. December in 2017. Bortles was lighting up the stat sheet and opponents of late, on his way to helping clinch a playoff spot. But “Bad Blake” peeked his head out in San Fran.
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In the first quarter, Bortles threw his first pick-six of the season (though blame should be shared by Keelan Cole), and followed it up with two more interceptions on the day. He also gift-wrapped another pick, but it was dropped.
Bortles did lead the first half comeback with two touchdown drives to tie the game at halftime, and brought the game back to within four with under two minutes to go, but there were just far too many flashes of the Bortles that has been heavily scrutinized in his time in Jacksonville.
Hopefully this was an aberration, and Bortles will get back on track for the playoffs. For the sake of a potential playoff run, he has to for the Jaguars.
Running game has to find stability again
This loss was a telling sign that Jacksonville has to find a stable and effective run game again. The Jaguars rushed for only 3.3 yards a carry, and didn’t crack 100 yards overall on the ground. Leonard Fournette had just 48 yards on 18 carries. That simply is not going to cut it moving into January.
The passing game had been working well for Jacksonville in recent weeks, but this loss is another alarming reminder that a potent running game is an absolute must for this team.
The most disappointing aspect of the loss on Sunday was the effort, or lack thereof, of the Jaguars defense. This was a humbling day for a defense that entered the game ranked first in the league.
Jacksonville gave up 37 offensive points and let Jimmy Garoppolo take what he wanted for most of the game. A few of the 49ers scoring drives were on a short field due to turnovers, and hard to pin directly on the defense, but it was still a highly uninspired effort. Not much in the form of a pass rush by the league leading unit in sacks, and too many open receivers found by Garoppolo. Correcting what went wrong in this one on the defensive side will be critical, as the defense is the backbone of the Jaguars.
The most frustrating moves by the defense were the lack of composure and discipline. The Jaguars unraveled, and had three unsportsmanlike penalties, including two on one drive that led to a San Francisco touchdown. Whether or not it was out of frustration, that behavior is unacceptable and would lead to an early departure in January.
On to the bright news of the day. The Jacksonville Jaguars did clinch their first ever AFC South title, and first division crown since 1999. Jacksonville will indeed host a home playoff game in January. The loss to the Niners is a black-eye, but should not blemish the accomplishment of the team in capturing the division in 2017.
In a game that will end up not meaning much in the grand scheme (unless the Patriots or Steelers drop a game they shouldn’t), let’s hope this turns out to be a wake-up call for the Jacksonville Jaguars moving forward as the team has one more regular season game before the postseason arrives.