In a week when Shad Khan made news for upgrading the size of his yacht and dropping the hammer on the venerable Edgewood Bakery, it’s kind of a relief to have less controversial things to talk about, like the Jacksonville Jaguars.
On a cool day with a slate-gray sky, the 2-11 Jags took on their division rival, the 6-6 Houston Texans, playing late-season spoiler yet again. The Texans came into the game still on the periphery of AFC South title contention; the Jags have been out of it for a while, but the home team clearly is still playing for pride.
Some positives: In the first half, the Jags actually moved the ball. Blake Bortles threw downfield when he needed to, wasn’t afraid to run, put together long drives, etc. He got all the receivers involved — Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Cecil Shorts, as well as tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor — and used the whole field. This performance was light years removed from the one in Indy a couple of weeks ago. The long passes opened up the dump-offs, like the screen to Toby Gerhart in the two-minute drill, a play that wouldn’t have worked if Houston hadn’t respected the pass. Nothing spectacular, but not bad on a sloggy day.
The defense didn’t embarrass itself, either. Texans running back Arian Foster was a factor early on, as he almost always is, but compared to the last time Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick came to town, as a Tennessee Titan, the Jags defense was more staunch in the early going, holding Fitzmagic to 27 first-half yards. As the rain picked up, the Jags’ 13-10 halftime lead looked remarkably stable. And pundits like me, who recently asked Gus how much longer he expected to be in his job, looked like fools.
Then, the second half.
A 16-play Houston drive, which ate up the best part of the third quarter, was one of those classic backbreakers, offering evidence that Houston had found some weaknesses in the Jags defense. Then Bortles threw an interception at the line of scrimmage — his patented move, which the Texans’ D.J. Swearinger gobbled up like the last dot on a Pac-Man board. The Texans cashed that in for an Arian Foster TD and a double-digit lead.
From there, the Jags were forced to pass, and deal with J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing in the backfield with the quickness. Bortles very quickly looked rattled, Gabbertesque, and the offensive rhythm fell off with the receivers. Once Houston got up 27-13, they started playing a softer zone, which Bortles took advantage of underneath, going to Lewis and Hurns on some quick passes to get them within field goal range. Soon enough, fourth and 20, and the Jags have no plays for that … except a check down, which gave the remaining fans an excuse to check out.
After loss No. 12, it gets harder to figure out what to say. Sure, there’s progress – I spend a lot of time in these recaps attempting to document it, rather than burying the team for something so vulgar as wins and losses. Really, though, it’s another lost season. Maybe the current regime can make its big Year 3 jump. They’re going to need to hit big in the next draft, and get some free agents to want to come here despite themselves. Even then, there are no guarantees.