How can the defense use the bye week to become better in the second half.
That was the question to defensive end Josh Allen following the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) 39-29 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon.
The perpetually affable but introspective second year Pro-Bowler quickly begins, “I mean…” before huffing out a breath and taking a long pause.
“If you really look at the film, if you look at the matchups, it didn’t—a lot of teams aren't really doing nothing to us,” he finally says.
That comment could understandably cause a balk. Teams aren’t really doing nothing to them? This defense has given up 30 or more points for six straight weeks. The offense sputtered from Week 3 till arguably the second drive of the second quarter on Sunday. Special teams has seen a rotating door of kickers and little spark.
But Josh Allen has also seen something else.
“You know, if you look at the drives—penalties, you know us defeating ourselves, you know, not communicating back end. You know, we had multiple times where guys just didn't line up right. And something big happened for them. Or we had, you know, we smashed them all game, all the time, you know the whole drive, and then we get a penalty.
“So if you look at, if you really look at it and really look at the matchups and really look at how we were pressuring them and how we were stopping the run, defense we had a good game. You know the numbers can say whatever they want. But if you take back those penalties, and take back those blown assignments, you know, we're in the game.”
When studying the drive charts from the Jags sixth straight loss, one can’t help but wonder if instead of just rose colored revisionist history on Allen’s part, there isn’t some truth and validity to what he’s saying?
For starters, the Jags offense attempted a fourth down conversion four times (one in the second quarter, one in the third quarter and two in the fourth quarter) but converted just once. The one successful conversion was a throw downfield to Laviska Shenault that was just past the chains.
However the call on 3rd down—also a completion to Shenault—had been just short of the chains. It wasn’t a bad play by the rookie. It seemed by design to take Shenault to the spot and turn up field. That spot was two yards short of the marker, where he was tackle.
“Those third and fourth downs, it's not necessarily, you know, something that, I've done in the past,” says Marrone.
“I'm trying to give this team a spark, I'm trying to get them going when we have a little bit of momentum and, you know, I think those are critical times that you have to be, right on it, focused and you have to execute. At the end of the day, you know, three out of those four plays, we didn't execute. And that's, you know, go ahead and say—player, coach—that’s on all of us and it starts with me so you know that to me is, you know, when I'm disappointed.”
One of those fourth downs effectively stymied some of the same momentum which Marrone referenced. After racing back in the second quarter and swinging the pendulum their way, the Jaguars continued their progress to open the third quarter with a blocked punt, scoop and score by rookie Daniel Thomas. Up 21-16, the defense kept good coverage on the Chargers offense ensuing drive and forced a long field goal. It was no good.
When the Jags got the ball back, they looked to be faced with a 3-and-out. But on 4th and 2 from their own 46-yard line, Marrone elected to go for it.
He told reporters after the game he wanted the ball to go to James Robinson. But with quarterback Gardner Minshew II (14-27, 173 yards, 2 touchdowns) flushed and running out to his right, Robinson had his back to the passer, trying to lay a block. Nothing open, Minshew tucked and ran and picked up only one of the two yards needed.
For what it’s worth, Minshew voiced support for Marrone’s call.
“I think anytime a coach puts faith in you like that you know you want to reward him and we did a times a day different times. But anytime, you know, coach puts out that kind of confidence I think kind of resonates to the team.”
The Chargers took over already on the Jaguars side of the field. Then, the defense held. After a gang tackle sack on Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, Los Angeles was facing a 3rd and 6. The pass was overthrown…but a holding call on Brandon Watson gave the Chargers a fresh set of downs. Herbert ran the ball in for a touchdown one play later to go back up by one.
There was also the DeDe Westbrook fumble on a kickoff return that allowed the Chargers to score on back-to-back drives. And the five sacks Minshew and the offense took.
The series of events were a microcosm of what Allen mentioned; good coverage, good defense and good play beyond the numbers…only to be negated by a bad penalty. Brought about in the first place by a questionable coaching decision.
In total? Self inflicted mistakes, costing the Jags their first win since Week 1 and wiping out some of the best progress made in all three phases of the game. Now, it’s what has to be fixed during the Jacksonville Jaguars bye week.
Says Allen, “There’s nothing more we can do. We just have to win the one-on-ones in the back end and front, and we'll be successful. So that's something that we have to emphasize this week.”