Sunday, November 17, 2013
Fast start fizzles for Jaguars offense
By Michael DiRocco
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' offense hasn't had any trouble starting fast the last two weeks.
It's the rest of the game that has been the problem.
It happened in a 29-27 victory over Tennessee on Nov. 10 but the Jaguars were able to hang on and get their first victory over the season. They couldn't overcome it against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at EverBank Field, however, and lost 27-14.
The Jaguars scored two touchdowns -- their first at EverBank this season -- and racked up 111 yards in the first quarter. But penalties, an injury to an already-depleted receiving corps, and the lack of a running game crushed the early momentum. The result was the ninth loss of the season and sixth consecutive loss at EverBank Field.
"After those scores we struggled," head coach Gus Bradley said. "We had quite a few three-and-outs. I know we had some second-and-longs, some penalties that showed up in the second half, a couple interceptions. We've got to overcome that. We've really got to continue to challenge our guys to step up and make plays."
The Jaguars (1-9) managed just two first downs in the second quarter and two more in the third. They managed just 163 yards in the final three quarters and 58 came after the Cardinals took a 24-14 lead. Why such a poor performance?
Penalties hurt. A false start on third-and-8 by receiver Ace Sanders in the second quarter. Early in the fourth, center Brad Meester and guard Uche Nwaneri had false starts on the same drive. A holding penalty on tackle Cameron Bradfield wiped out a 21-yard reception by Maurice Jones-Drew.
The running game was non-existent, too. That's not surprising considering the Cardinals entered the day with the NFL's third-ranked rush defense, but Jones-Drew and the offensive line really struggled. The Jaguars ran for just 32 yards on 16 carries and Jones-Drew ran 14 times for 23 yards, which is the second-lowest total of his career in games in which he's had double-digit carries.
The Jaguars were already short at receiver with the suspension of Justin Blackmon and Stephen Burton missing the game with a concussion, but Mike Brown left the game in the second half with a shoulder injury. That meant the Jaguars had to use Kerry Taylor, whom the team claimed off waivers from Arizona on Nov. 4, in a bigger role.
Sanders, Brown, Taylor and tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor were pretty much quarterback Chad Henne's only options because No. 1 receiver Cecil Shorts was being shadowed by Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson. Until the final four minutes of the game, Henne targeted Shorts just once. In those final four minutes, Henne threw to Shorts four times.
Shorts was clearly frustrated.
"There was opportunities throughout the game I should have been involved in," Shorts said. "But, you know, it is what it is. I can't control what the … We can do better as an offense."
Henne wasn't particularly effective, either. Though he completed 27 of 42 passes for 255 yards and one touchdown, he threw two interceptions and didn't challenge the Arizona secondary. As noted, he didn't look for Shorts until the game was well in hand and there were instances where he was open against Peterson.
He settled for shorter passes too often, too, especially on several third downs. It seemed as if he was overly concerned with Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
"It was tough," Henne said. "Patrick Peterson's a great corner and we knew we were going to have some problems with him. But Cecil, I thought, in some of his one-on-one routes did some really good things with it. They were playing a high safety. Their guys up front are good pass rushers, so we wanted to get the ball out quick, get it out on time, and I think we definitely accomplished some of that."
It was a typical Henne game. Several good throws, several bad, and a mixture of safe stuff. But he couldn't lead the offense to any points despite starting possessions at his own 40, the Arizona 42, midfield, and his own 42. Punt, punt, punt, interception.
"Field position was outstanding," Bradley said. "We had a couple times we started on the 50 and there in. Those we have to come away with some points. We have to. Even if it's a field goal, to get it down there inside the 35. We took a sack on one. We were on the 36 yard line, the 38-yard line, trying to get it to the 35, we take a sack. Throw it away and give it a chance. We'll continue to grow on those decisions."
It's not all on Henne, Shorts said.
"I felt like we had a lot of momentum at the beginning of the game," said Shorts, who caught just two passes for 22 yards. "We had penalties. When we're in their territory we need to at least get three points. We're on their side of the 50, we can't have a penalty, first-and-15, and we get a positive play, then another penalty, first-and-20. We can't have stuff like that. We need to at least get three every time we're in their territory. We've just got to do better. We need to execute."