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Penalties, balanced Jaguars take down Dolphins

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There are two ways to look at the 23-20 victory by the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Miami Dolphins. Looking at the positives, neither team committed a turnover. Both quarterbacks were efficient.

Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns, while Miami’s Ryan Tannehill completed 30 of 44 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns. It was the ninth 300-yard passing game of Tannehill’s career.

While Tannehill was sharp, the Dolphins offense was completely out of balance with only 42 yards rushing. Victories seldom follow when passing yards amount to 90 percent of a team’s total offense.

Another statistic normally thwarting success is penalty yardage. The Jaguars were flagged 9 times for 93 yards, but the Dolphins were worse. Miami’s 13 penalties for 112 yards is a figure unmatched in nearly 20 years.

Significant penalty yardage can distort offensive statistics because offenses are re-gaining the same yardage lost because of yellow flags. Both teams had multiple opportunities to do that on Sunday.

Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin is clearly disappointed by the penalties. As a coach who stresses the need to avoid flags, he brings in referees to every practice to simulate game conditions. A Dolphins penalty near the end of the first half, which led to a field goal, particularly irked him.

“That’s not good football to give up three points like that at the end of the half,” said Philbin. “That’s what happens when you’re sloppy and you end up paying a price for it.”

The Jaguars featured a far more balanced attack. In addition to Bortles’ passing numbers, Jacksonville rushed for 123 yards, including a 28-yard scamper by Bortles. Coach Gus Bradley was understandably excited after the 28-yard field goal by Jason Myers.

“It was a hard fought battle; there are some mistakes we need to correct,” said Bradley after the game. “But overall, the intensity and how we played the game, I am very pleased.”

It is understood that Bradley has a long term project in building the Jaguars into a playoff team. Experience, especially at the skill positions, will go a long way toward making that a reality.

Miami is considered further along, but management and staff know that they need to develop their running game, and avoid repeats of Sunday’s penalty fest, before taking the next step.

Jacksonville gets to enjoy this one for a few hours before preparing for next Sunday’s trip to New England to fact the Patriots. It is the first of three consecutive road games.

The Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills in their home opener.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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