Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone leaves the field after the Jaguars lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the last seconds on November 26, 2017 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo
Like several other NFL teams, the Jaguars break their season-long, 16-game schedule into quarters. The concept is to win every quarter and, at the worst, break even. Winning every quarter would assure a team of no worse than a 12-4 record and that's certainly worthy of postseason play.
The Jaguars' expectations were to compile at least a 3-1 mark in the first quarter. With three home games and a tough road contest in New York against the Giants, a 3-1 record after four weeks would be deemed acceptable. It's just that after posting wins over the Giants and following it with a convincing win at home over New England, and with two home games next on the docket, the Jaguars were thinking about a perfect 4-0 start to the season.
That came to a crashing halt last Sunday when the Jaguars' offense looked disoriented against the Tennessee Titans. The 9-6 loss was a stunner, especially for the offensive unit that had played so well against the Patriots and appeared ready to post some gaudy numbers against a Titans defense that is tough, but not invincible.
Now, the Jaguars will need a win at home this Sunday against an improved New York Jets squad that pinned a 23-20 overtime loss on the visiting Jaguars last year.
Defensive end Calais Campbell said the first quarter would be acceptable if the Jaguars win Sunday and post a 3-1 mark in the first four weeks.
"The goal is to win enough games to win your division and have your shot at the playoffs," said Campbell, who did his part against the Titans, finishing with a pair of sacks, five tackles, including three for loss, and two quarterback hits. "We break the schedule down by quarters and if you go 3-1 each quarter, that will put you in position to go to the playoffs. We've got to put this loss behind us and move forward from here. Good teams don't lose two games in a row."
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson echoed those sentiments. He said there was a huge difference in going 3-1 compared to 2-2.
"I believe in breaking the season down into quarters as well [along with head coach Doug Marrone]. You can't look at the big picture; you have to look at small pieces," Jackson said. "But it's a huge difference going 3-1 from 2-2; it's the difference in going from a great start to an average start. Hopefully we can go 3-1, that's what we're shooting for, but we've got a good team in front of us so we'll see."
Jackson was involved with a game-changing play when he lowered his head into Titans starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert and was assessed a 15-yard "lowering the head to initialize contact" penalty. The hit, which sent Gabbert out of the game for good due to a possible concussion, was so impactful that he knocked the ball free with the Jaguars recovering. But instead of taking over at the Tennessee 39-yard line, instead the Titans retained possession at the Jaguars' 29 following the penalty.
Four plays later, with Marcus Mariota now in at quarterback, the Titans kicked the first of three field goals in the game to take a 3-0 lead. It flipped what could have been a Jaguars' three-point lead into one for the Titans, and it brought in Mariota to finish the game.
Mariota didn't have impressive numbers through the air, but as he's done in past games against the Jaguars, his ability to scramble for big chunks of yardage proved to be invaluable. He had several key runs, including a 13-yard gain when the Jaguars had pinned the Titans at their 4-yard line late in the first quarter.
The back-breaker came late in the game when Mariota picked up 15 yards on a quarterback keeper on a third-down play with 2:26 left in the game. Had the Jaguars held the Titans quarterback in check there, they would have gotten the ball in good field position with a timeout and the two-minute warning available to help them go for a game-tying field-goal attempt, if not a game-winning touchdown.
Now, the Jaguars must do what they were able to do so well last year -- avoid losing two games in a row. That didn't happen until the final two games of the regular season, when they lost back-to-back road games at San Francisco and at Tennessee to close out the season. But by then, the Jaguars had already posted a 10-4 mark and had wrapped up the AFC South title. Their only two division losses were to the Titans, who beat them soundly in Jacksonville the second game of the season and then again in the season finale in which the Jaguars rested all of their starters and still lost by just five points.
On Monday, Marrone continued to take the blame for the fake punt run failing to convert a first down.
"Obviously I could have done a better job in getting everyone prepared. The fake punt was my call," the Jaguars coach said. "Looking back, we want to be aggressive but it's a tough situation. If I had known the way the game was going to go, then I would have kicked it there and get it down deep inside. I've got to learn from that. I told the players, all we had to do was make a play. We weren't able to do that. I credit Tennessee, they did a good job in keeping us from doing it. We had some poor execution and we didn't play well. It starts with me, the coaches and players, it's on all of us.
WR Keelan Cole was targeted a season-high nine times on Sunday but caught just five passes for 40 yards. That was a significant drop-off from the previous week against New England, when he had seven receptions for 116 yards.
LB Myles Jack is usually among the team's tackle leaders but he was held in check against the Titans. Jack was credited with just three tackles after recording 18 stops in the first two games this year.
OG Chris Reed earned his first start of the season after he was one of the seven game-day inactives for the Jaguars in their first two contests this year. Reed started for A.J. Cann, who has a triceps injury.
RG A.J. Cann had started 48 of the 50 games he played in since the Jaguars selected him in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Cann's status is uncertain for this week but head coach Doug Marrone said if Cann was back at practice by Thursday, chances were good that he'd play this Sunday.
PK Josh Lambo continues to shine for the Jags. Lambo added two more field goals against the Titans and has now converted 17 consecutive field-goal attempts dating back to midway in the 2017 season.
RB Corey Grant earned his second career start on Sunday with Leonard Fournette out with a hamstring injury and T.J. Yeldon limited with an ankle injury. Grant finished with just 11 yards on six carries, and was stopped for no gain on an end-around, fake-punt play. A year ago, Grant gained 56 and 58 yards on a pair of runs out of a punt formation.
DE Calais Campbell recorded two more sacks in the Tennessee game and for his 19-game career with the Jaguars, Campbell has 17.5 sacks.
LT Josh Wells earned his fourth career start with the Jaguars, replacing Cam Robinson at left tackle after Robinson had surgery for a torn ACL suffered last week against New England. Wells' other three starts were a year ago, when he replaced right tackle Jermey Parnell for three games.
RB T.J. Yeldon led the Jaguars in receptions (7) and yards (46) against Tennessee.