“It’s evident to see how far we’ve come in many aspects of our game.” — Shad Khan.
Our friends at the Columbia Journalism Review had an article a few months back supporting the Associated Press stylebook stance against sports clichés.
Left unwritten: why the cliché is so prevalent.
When you cover a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, which has been in “wait-til-next-year” mode since the Barack Obama “historic victory” post-inauguration collectible plates were a hot seller, you see the same things over and over again.
So you end up writing them, if writing about the NFL’s most consistently Sisyphean experience is your thing.
Close losses. Mental errors. A lack of roster depth. Familiar signposts on the road to 5-11. To an eighth straight year out of the postseason. In the weakest division in the NFL, won this year by the most patchwork of Houston Texans’ teams.
The issues for the Jaguars early in the Texans’ game included a running game that lost battle after battle on the line, with Jonas Gray and Denard Robinson being consumed near the line of scrimmage. In the passing game, it felt like most of Blake Bortles’ passes were either tipped at the line of scrimmage or contested in the secondary, as he came out of the first quarter 2 for 6 for 16 yards.
And sacks and quarterback pressure? They were there, like the Christmas leftovers gathering mold in the back of the refrigerator. Two sacks in the first quarter for the Texans to set the tone. And Jags’ OT Luke Joeckel? Preparing for his post-playing career. As a turnstile.
Meanwhile, the only significant pressure the Jags put on Texans’ QB Brian Hoyer in the first quarter was a late hit. And even when they had two defenders on all-world wideout DeAndre Hopkins, they had no answers for him.
Once down by 10, the Jags’ offense got going, courtesy of a 36-yard catch-and-run to Allen Robinson, which set up a 43-yard field goal from Jason Myers to close the margin to 10-3.
The Jags forced a punt on the next drive, and Denard Robinson gave the ball right back, fumbling it on another fruitless run inside on the Texans’ defense. The Texans turned that turnover into a 17-3 lead with just under six minutes left in the half, courtesy of a 3-yard Jonathan Grimes run.
The Jaguars, so amazingly well-coached that they announced retaining Gus Bradley so that the team could focus on this Houston game, were doing it all. Sergio Brown and Andre Branch out of position on defense. Joeckel and the rest of the line getting burned like forests during an August drought.
The Texans cashed in another opportunity as the first half mercifully approached its endpoint, set up by a Bortles interception.
The halftime score: 20-3. Bortles with 80 yards passing and a pick.
The second half would almost have to go better than the first.
Down 20 to 3, Davon House picked off a Hoyer pass, returning the ball to the Texans’ 15, putting Bortles and the squad in business.
Even with a red zone opportunity served up, three plays later they were forced to kick a field goal, after yet another J.J. Watt sack of the beleaguered, battered, bewildered, and bedeviled Bortles.
Up until the 11:14 mark of the fourth quarter, the Jaguars had 108 total yards.
A promising garbage time drive ended suddenly in Texans’ territory, when the Texans got to Bortles yet again; Watt got the sack, Whitney Mercilus ended up grabbing the fumble.
That set up a drive that killed all but 3:24 off the clock, ending with another Texans’ FG and a 17 point lead.
Bortles wasn’t done though.
Staring down Allen Robinson like he was going to ask him to couples’ skate, Bortles threw his signature.
A Pick 6.
A team that started four QBs. That lost Arian Foster. That was down 42-0 in Miami before halftime.
They took the Jags to the woodshed: the AFC South champs.