Four Down Territory: How the Jaguars win in London
By David Levin
This might be the biggest task the Jacksonville Jaguars face all season. Playing the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles is now a must-win game.
The best thing about going to London for the Jacksonville Jaguars is the speed of the week leading up to the game on Sunday. It’s a lot different than if this game was played at TIAA Bank Field.
When Blake Bortles and his teammates take the field at Wembley Stadium, the talk of what happened the past week will be a distant memory. The talk about a much-needed victory and some balance on offense will be the focal point of the game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"“This week really doesn’t allow you to think about a whole lot,” Bortles said Friday across the pond when he spoke to the media. “Everything’s kind of jammed in. You’ve got to get a lot done on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. It was kind of good timing to get my mind off last week and start worrying about Philadelphia and going to London.”"
Bortles has had a stretch over the last three games that can only be distinguished as atrocious. Poor decisions in the pocket, interceptions, fumbles and a lack of ability to move the football. It isn’t all on the fifth-year starter as the team has been riddled with injuries.
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If there is ever a place that could rectify these issues, Wembley Stadium and three-straight victories in the UK might be the elixir this franchise needs.
Playing against the Philadelphia Eagles, however, presents a huge obstacle to overcome.
Here are four things the Jaguars and Bortles must do to win on Sunday morning in London.
First Down – London Calling: Familiarity is a big advantage for the Jaguars. Per David Wolf of the Jaguars public relations department, there are plenty of reasons to believe this game favors the “home” team.
"“Sunday’s game will mark the Jaguars’ seventh career appearance at London’s historic Wembley Stadium. The Jaguars have won three consecutive games at Wembley Stadium entering Sunday’s Week 8 appearance against Philadelphia. The Jaguars are averaging 36 points per game in their last three appearances at Wembley Stadium (2015-17),” he wrote in his “What to Watch” press release to the local media."
If the Jaguars can get the ball early and score, that would be a huge burden lifted off the offense. The running game must set up the pass and Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon must also catch the ball out of the backfield.
Second Down – Stick to the defensive basics: Telvin Smith did not like it when NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison called the Jacksonville Jaguars defense “soft” during “Football Night in America” on Sunday.
The fifth-year linebacker out of FSU took it personally. Maybe that’s the kind of wakeup call this unit needs. The team isn’t creating turnovers as it did last season and is not getting to the quarterback as the pass rush did only a year ago.
"“Everybody’s trying to call us front-runners and stuff like that,” Smith said in a story written by ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco. “Now you’re talking about my character. Now you’re talking about me as a man, so, we’re going to see about it.“Everybody’s going to say a lot of stuff right now. I get it. But again, tell people be careful what you ask for.”"
I hope Smith’s words prove prophetic as they try to hurry quarterback Carson Wentz and stop a less-then-exciting Eagles running game.
Third Down – Catch the football: This plays into my thoughts it is not about the play of Bortles alone. Wide receivers have let their signal caller down as well. Keelan Cole has become a non-factor the past three games.
Jacksonville is targeting Donte Moncrief more than any other pass catcher when they should try and get Dede Westbrook one-on-one with the Eagles secondary and let him use his speed on the outside. If Jacksonville can move the football effectively on first down on the ground, the middle of the field may open up as Philadelphia tries to stuff the run.
I expect Westbrook and Cole to have solid games on Sunday and use their speed to their advantage.
Fourth Down – Play consistently on offense: How about scoring some points? The Jaguars have 28 points in their last three games. Any sustainable drive that results in a field goal or touchdown would be welcomed here.
"As John Oehser of Jaguars.com points out, “The Jaguars have trailed 20-0, 24-0 and 20-0 to the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Texans during their current three-game losing streak. Trailing hampers the pass rush. It increases pressure on a struggling offense.”"
Jacksonville is not a team that is built to come from behind. That means the defense must hold a lead if the team ever gets one.
Controlling the clock and scoring on consecutive drives could be the start of a rebirth of this offense.