Through twenty nine minutes of the first half, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense looked flat. That changed when the Jags got the ball just before halftime, and Allen Hurns ate Antonio Cromartie‘s lunch with two deep catches on one of those two minute drill drives, in which the Jaguars’ offense shines.
This put them back in the game; 14-10 deficit, and that touchdown getting some boos from the Jets’ faithful.
The first half was mixed. Eric Decker won matchup after matchup, driving the Jets’ attack. Meanwhile, dangerous tailback Chris Ivory, despite a touchdown, was held to just 14 first-half yards as the Jags kept it close through 30 minutes.
The proof of the pudding with Gus Bradley and his Jags, however, is always the second half adjustment. Or lack thereof. The Jags have had a recent history of coming out of the locker room for the third quarter flat.
This time, at least it started out well. Bortles was resourceful in driving the ball down the field, looking Roethlisberger-esque running the ball when no receiver was open. The drive stalled out, but the defense held, and with six minutes left in the third, the Jaguars were one drive away from the lead. They tacked on another 3, pulling within one.
From there, Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick drove them down the field, setting up another punch-in touchdown from Ivory, putting them up by 8.
Then, something like a turning point. The Jags with the ball, 90 yards away, and Bortles to Robinson turns a run of the mill 3rd-and-Hopeless into a first down, with a 44 yard jump ball completion that showed Bortles’ trust in Robinson and Robinson’s emergence into one of the top receivers in the league.
Another drive close to the red zone; another “forced to settle for a field goal.” Still, for Jags’ fans who can remember the trip to New England this year, a five point deficit in the fourth quarter was Valhalla with ten minutes left.
When plotting the trajectory of when a “moral victory” is secured, it seems like it would be the precise moment when a typical fan would say “gee whiz, I could live with this.” That might have been when Sergio Brown came within a hair of picking off Fitzpatrick on first and twenty. Or when the Jags almost sacked him on Third and Fourteen, setting up the Jags getting the ball left with under 8 minutes on the clock.
Bortles quickly drove the ball from where he was throwing from inside his own end zone to midfield, against what was left of the Jets’ secondary, before Yeldon took it outside and to the Jets’ 10.
Bortles, evading one in an endless series of collapsed pockets and shattered offensive schemes, darted and evaded and then gave up the ball to the Jets with a skosh over five minutes to go.
The Jags forced a punt, and returner Nick Marshall ran before catching the ball, giving the Jets the ball in Jaguars’ territory and a chance to run the four minute offense. The defense could only hold so long, meanwhile, against the Jets’ Brandon Marshall. A Fitzpatrick dart to Marshall burned Davon House and put the Jets up by 12.
Then, the Jags fired back; 72 yards in three plays, and the Jags pulled back within five, managing to get the ball back yet again with 54 seconds and no timeouts with 90 yards to go.
This set up the backbreaking interception that seems to be the hallmark of so many Bortles-era losses.
So, 2-6. The Jags visit Baltimore next week, which especially without Steve Smith, would seem beatable.
Meanwhile, going back to the moral victory trope, there were at least a few moments where you could say they scored a moral victory.
Pick your favorite.