It’s getting a little difficult to properly evaluate this year’s Jaguars team.
Every time they reach the verge of a breakthrough, a costly mistake sends them spiraling. Then, you think they’re down and out, they suddenly spring back to life. They’re unpredictable and unstable – these are marks of a young team, but that doesn’t mean they can be waived off.
That narrative was present on Sunday against the Bears. The team started hot on offense, driving the ball 84 yards before a Bortles pass into the end zone bounced free from the hands of Allen Robinson, into the arms of a waiting defender.
It was the kind of unlucky play Jags fans have become all too accustomed to over the past few seasons.
This early mistake seemed to destroy the offense’s confidence, as five of their next six possessions would end in punts. (That sixth one was a kneel-down before the half.)
On the other side of the ball, Jalen Ramsey struggled to keep up with Bears WR Alshon Jeffery, getting badly outfoxed and out-hustled by Jeffery on several plays.
The Jaguars would find themselves down 13-0 at halftime. It’s a scenario the team has often found itself in, and rarely has climbed out of.
Surprisingly, though, the team seemed re-energized in the second half.
The defensive grips tightened, and once the offense went into no-huddle mode everything suddenly clicked. It’s clear that Bortles is more comfortable in the no-huddle offense – he’s said this himself – but the team rarely utilizes it.
The game-changing drive came toward the end of the third quarter, and resulted in a 1-yard TD run for the struggling Chris Ivory. This would then be followed by a field goal and a game-winning 51-yard TD pass from Bortles to Arrelious Benn.
Ramsey got to make up for his earlier shortcomings by ending the game with a huge pass deflection on 4th and 10 as the Bears attempted to come back.
The Jags, a team not known for comebacks, took their first lead in this game with 2:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. It’s just the second time in franchise history that they’ve been able to win on the road when trailing by 13 after three quarters.
The Jaguars now stand at 2-3. It’s hard to evaluate them by their record alone – they were a few mistakes away from beating the Packers and Ravens, and a few away from losing to the Colts or Bears. It’s a team that could easily be either 5-1 or 1-5 right now.
More significantly, at 2-3, the team stays on pace with its divisional rivals. The only chance for this Jaguars team to reach the playoffs would be by winning their division, so this is important to track.
The coaching issue continues to linger, but with two wins in a row for the first time in the Gus Bradley era, the pressure is at least not as intense for his staff moving forward.
The Jaguars face a real test next week against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders (4-2) are another young team with a powerful, up-and-coming offense. Unlike the Jags, they’ve been able to turn this into wins, at least in the early stages of the season. If the Jags want to show that they’re serious and can be a threat this year, they must come out strong against the Raiders.
- Prince Amukamara’s name was misspelled on his jersey Sunday; he said he didn’t even notice.
- Even at 2-3, stats site FiveThirtyEight still gives the Jags only an 8% chance of making the playoffs.
- DT Malik Jackson is continuing to get off to a slow start this season, which may explain why the coaching staff had him dropping back in coverage occasionally on Sunday. Even given that explanation, it was still a curious move.
- Prior to Sunday’s win, the Jaguars had lost 17 of their last 18 games.