By: Hays Carlyon
I’m not burying the Jaguars after one game. But, we can start eyeing tombstones.
It’s going to take something remarkable for this Jaguars season to result in a playoff berth.
This is sports. One of the reasons we all love sports is that the remarkable can happen.
We certainly know nightmares can become reality in sports.
That happened here Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.
In a 30-minute span, we saw the Jaguars lose quarterback Nick Foles to a broken left clavicle, while the hyped Jaguars defense allowed Kansas City to gain 138 yards on their first five plays.
The end result was a 40-26 loss. The Chiefs scored on their first seven possessions.
For now, the Jaguars offense is in the hands of sixth-round rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew.
“I believe in this football team, and I think that we will win games,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “But make no mistake. We do have work ahead of us, but I feel good about where this team is.”
It’s looking at likely an eight-game stretch without Foles, who will have surgery Monday. If the Jaguars place him on injured reserve this week, Foles can’t return until Nov. 17 at Indianapolis.
For extra pain, Foles’ injury occurred on one of the most beautiful passes you’ll see this season. Foles connected on a 35-yard touchdown to DJ Chark in the back corner of the end zone. It validated everything the Jaguars thought about Foles when they signed him in March.
Unfortunately, Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones drove Foles into the ground after he let the ball go causing the injury.
Amazingly, the Jaguars offense handled the adversity well. Minshew completed his first 13 passes for 148 yards, leading the Jaguars to scores on four of seven possessions. He was 22-of-25 passing for 275 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 122.5.
Let’s put that into perspective.
Minshew became the most accurate single-game passer in Jaguars history among players with at least 25 pass attempts with his 88-percent completion percentage. That was the highest for any player with at least 15 pass attempts making their debut in NFL history. This league is celebrating its 100th season.
That can’t totally be dismissed. Obviously, the Chiefs didn’t game plan for Minshew and future opponents will assuming he’s the starter for the length of Foles’ recovery.
I would give him the chance to have a length run as the starter. He’s decisive and showed impressive poise in a tough situation.
You can forget about Minshew’s lackluster preseason.
“This is real ball,” Minshew said. “Senses get heightened, and I had a lot of guys make plays for me today. That’s huge.”
Minshew had the Jaguars driving to start the third quarter trailing 23-13 when he completed a pass to running back Leonard Fournette, who lost a fumble at the Chiefs 26-yard line.
“I feel better about him now today than I did probably during the preseason,” Marrone said. “I think that’s fair to say. I think the work during the preseason was able to get him ready for things like this. You saw eleven guys out there functioning well, and it starts with the quarterback.”
It started with the quarterback for the Chiefs. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes executed coach Andy Reid’s game plan perfectly.
The Jaguars had no answers, proving once again that Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash is overmatched too often by gifted play callers.
The Jaguars simply have too much talent to allow any offense to score on their first seven possessions. Mahomes constantly found gaping holes in the Jaguars secondary, throwing for 375 yards and three touchdowns.
The Jaguars failed to sack Mahomes or generate a turnover.
“We gave up too many big plays against Kansas City,” Marrone said. “They got guys open. They did a really good job. We were trying to prevent the big plays to see if they had any patience. That was the plan going into it, playing a lot of Cover Four, but again they did a nice job and made the plays and were able to get behind us and by us.”
The Chiefs had gains of 68, 49, 42 and 21 yards – in the first quarter.
Kansas City might be the best offense the Jaguars will see this season. At worst, they are second to New Orleans. Still, this was a complete embarrassment.
Could they be better than what we witnessed Sunday? Yes.
Are they elite? Absolutely not.
So, can a good (not great) defense and a sixth-round rookie quarterback hold the fort down until Foles returns (if he’s able)? Can the Jaguars manage a 4-4 stretch with Minshew and come out of the bye with Foles at 4-5?
That seems remarkable based on Sunday’s contest.
But, remarkable happens.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)