“A terrible first half by the Jaguars compared to a perfect first half by the Cowboys” is how former Dallas quarterback and CBS analyst Tony Romo described the first 30 minutes of Sunday’s Jacksonville-Dallas game.
Indeed it was close to perfect for the Cowboys who accumulated 251 yards of offense on 40 plays in four scoring drives while racking up 17 first downs. Indeed it was terrible by the Jaguars who could muster just 64 yards in 19 plays and three first downs in their five series, four of which lasted for just three plays each. The Cowboys were 12 seconds shy of holding a 2-1 advantage in time of possession. And of course the most telling statistic was on the scoreboard that showed Dallas holding a 24-0 lead.
All of this comes just one week after the Jaguars were horrendous in falling behind Kansas City by a 20-0 score at halftime. At least in the Chiefs game, the Jaguars managed to come back and post a couple of touchdowns. And with the offense surrendering a touchdown on a Blake Bortles’ defense, the defense could say that they only allowed the highest scoring team in the NFL 23 total points.
The defense couldn’t say much, or rather shouldn’t say much, following the latest debacle. They were responsible for allowing all 40 points. Granted on only four of their eight scoring drives did the Cowboys have to march more than 50 yards. All in all, it was an abysmal performance by both of Jacksonville’s offensive and defensive units.
“This was ugly,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “It wasn’t pretty at all. Really, when you lose like this, everybody has to look in the mirror and figure out what we can do better, each one of us. We all have our hand in this. This is a team loss. This was as ugly as it gets.”
No need to argue that point. The Jaguars offense put together one solid scoring march. That came on an 8-play, 92-yard march in the third quarter that resulted in their only score of the game. Of Jacksonville’s 12 possessions, seven series lasted less than 95 seconds. Blake Bortles threw for a career-high 430 yards last week against Kansas City. This week Bortles managed just 149 passing yards to go with an interception and a touchdown.
“Just pretty much of a waste of a day and a trip,” Bortles said. “Give them credit. They played well. And we played, once again, pretty bad. So we’ve got to find ways to fix it and we will. There’s 10 games left. There’s a long way to go.”
But the Jaguars have some serious problems on both sides of the ball that will need to be corrected sooner rather than later if they hope to successfully defend their AFC South title. Giving up 70 points in two weeks time will not win many games especially when the offense doesn’t score until the third quarter for two games in a row. Against the high-powered Kansas City offense, it’s understandable how a team can allow 30 points. But against an offense like Dallas that had not scored more than two touchdowns in any game this year, but pushed across three scores in just the first half, that’s hard to understand.
“Everybody’s got to look in the mirror and learn how we can win our personal battles, our one-on-one battles,” cornerback Tyler Patmon said. “That’s just not what we’re doing right now.”
Fortunately for the Jaguars, no one else in the AFC South has a winning record. The hottest team is Houston with the Texans having won three straight games after dropping their first three. That leaves the Texans, Jaguars and Tennessee Titans locked in a three-way tie for the top spot in the division with identical 3-3 records. It also stresses the importance of next Sunday’s meeting between Jacksonville and Houston at TIAA Field.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has done a good job in keeping the team together and helping to avoid anything more than a two-game losing streak since taking over the coaching reigns with two games left in the 2016 season. But he admits there are some issues that need to be corrected.
“I’ve got to take a good look at what we’re doing to make sure that we’re not doing too much,” Marrone said. “We’ve got to get to work. It’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility for it and I will get this team right, so [there’s] a lot of work ahead of us.”