By: Rob Johnson @RJ1452
In the NFL, there are no style points for wins. Margins of victories mean nothing when it comes to deciding who makes the playoffs. The teams with the best records find themselves paying in mid-January. Period.
Don't get me wrong. I have no misconception that the Jaguars are qualifying for the playoffs. However, Sunday's thrilling 22-17 victory over the Colts can be a building block for a team desperate for a new identity.
Last week, I wrote that the Colts would be a better benchmark for the Jaguars than the Texans. While there are plenty of concerns about the Jags, they accomplished an important mission. They beat a peer. Throughout the game, we saw glimpses of the best and worst of the Jaguars, so let's take a look at this 1-2 team that could easily be 2-1.
Maurice Jones Drew was typical MJD. It was great to see him bust through the line for a huge touchdown run. He missed a key block on a failed reverse in the first quarter, and bad blocking became a common theme for the Jags on Sunday.
The offensive line struggled to provide Blaine Gabbert time to throw, and that led to a lot of frustrating drives. Yet, they only gave up one sack. The O-Line had no problem run blocking for MJD, as he racked up 177 yards on 28 carries. If you take away his 59 yard touchdown run, MJD still averaged 4.37 yards per carry. However, there really is no need to discredit that run, as the O-Line must be able to open up a little space for MJD to work his magic. All things considered, the O-Line was average, and let't face it, that's as good as can be expected with this crew.
Blaine Gabbert made it though another game without throwing an interception. That is significant. For all of his errant throws against the Colts, he didn't turn the ball over, and that is key for the Jaguars to win games. While Gabbert didn't leave us breathless, he did make some good throws, including the biggest one of all to win the game.
Gabbert had a few missed reads, but he didn't hold on to the ball long enough to take a sack, and he scrambled well when required. Not having Laurent Robinson for most of the game and the struggling of Justin Blackmon were detriments to Gabbert. Despite having less yardage (155) and touchdowns (1) to his counterpart, Andrew Luck (313 & 2), Gabbert was not significantly out-played. Both he and Luck hit on only 48% of their passes, and Luck had 25 more opportunities to throw the ball.
Speaking of Luck, he may have shown why he is so highly touted, but he also made rookie mistakes. He over-threw and under-threw receivers just as bad as Gabbert. One of the over-throws was intercepted, and if Dwight Lowery would have not dropped two interceptions and if Rashean Mathis would have held on to his interception, the game could have been a Jaguars blow-out.
Luck also had the luxury of throwing to Reggie Wayne, who seemed to always be open, as he collected 88 yards on 8 catches. In addition to that, Luck had all the time he needed in the pocket to find receivers. The Jaguars' pass rush was non-existent except for the Colts' final drive of the game.
As for the defensive line, let's start by giving them some credit. When it mattered most, they hit Luck's arm twice to force incompletions. That shouldn't go unnoticed. However, the D-Line was terrible during the rest of the game. A good opponent with a quality, veteran quarterback would have thrashed the Jags on Sunday. The D-Line must find ways to get pressure on quarterbacks during the rest of the season.
• Purple Raider To The Rescue! Earlier this year, I wrote about my enthusiasm for Cecil Shorts, III. The Division III receiver from Mount Union made what may be the best catch of his career, regardless of his future in the NFL. His finger-tip grab, run after the catch and effort to stretch into the end zone were spectacular.
• It was nice to see Guy Whimper recover a Gabbert fumble, after all it was Whimper's fault Gabbert was hit on the arm.
• Even though MJD is great, I think teams should always call a pass play on a two-point conversion.
• The Jags can beat the Bengals next week. Despite huge scoring ability, the Bengals can be contained. I saw them play against the Browns in Week 2, and they looked below average on both sides of the ball.
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