In theory, the Jacksonville Jaguars' biggest play in their 23-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Week 6 was simple.
Get eight yards. Throw to an open Laviska Shenault, who was running against a defense that was prepared to defend the end-zone instead of the first-down marker.
In reality, the play was much, much more than that. And as such, the completion from Trevor Lawrence to Shenault on 4th-and-8 with just 0:01 left on the clock is more than an eight-yard slant to an open receiver.
It was a perfectly executed call on the "slider", a first-down conversion that took just four seconds and gave the Jaguars a chance to kick the game-winning 53-yard field goal. And it was a call that beat all odds, or at least the odds the Jaguars were initially comfortable with.
"The extra time ended up changing it. So, the play before, we were going to take a shot to the end zone. The problem in the situation or, I guess, the decision in the situation was the distance that we had, you know?" Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Tuesday when examining the first-down.
"We only had five seconds, but we needed eight yards, so that was a little bit more of the talking points. I think we would’ve gone through the slider situation probably initially, but I think the fourth-and-8 was what, with the five seconds, made it a little bit more challenging. Our guys executed to perfection. We’ve worked on it a ton and so they did it great.”
That is what made an eight-yard slant all the more impressive to Bevell. It was a play the Jaguars have practiced often, but one that few teams are ever really tasked with running.
The Jaguars got the ball at the Miami 46-yard line following a turnover on downs by the Dolphins' offense on the play before. With just a few more yards needed to put kicker Matthew Wright in range to take the lead in the 20-20 game, the Jaguars began to go backward -- quickly.
First, tight end Chris Manhertz was called for a false start. Due to a sack and a negative run, the Jaguars would lose five more yards over the next two plays, giving them 3rd-and-20 from their own 44-yard line.
Lawrence and Shenault were able to pick up 12 yards on a quick-hitting play underneath on third-down, bringing up the biggest play of the game. A 4th-and-8 from Miami's 44-yard line. This gave the Jaguars a few choices: ask Wright to make a field goal of further than 60 yards or throw to the end zone and hope a Hail Mary can turn into an unlikely touchdown.
But instead, the Jaguars went with the slider. Instead, Lawrence and Shenault were tasked with getting eight yards in fewer than five seconds.
"We were going to do a Hail Mary or one of the Big Ben plays just a jump ball in the end zone, and I kept staring at the clock, and we practice this every week, and it'scalled slider," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said after the game.
"It's where you get the ball, and we usually say six seconds, five seconds, and we told our quarterback and Laviska, and I had the official right there and I said, as soon as he catches and goes down, time-out. He caught it, time-out, and there was still that one second left. We practice that quite a bit."
The fact that the Jaguars had to move the ball that far in that short of a period of time is what ultimately stood out to Bevell. It was a play-call that needed precise execution without any wasted time or movements. Time was of the essence and for arguably the first time in the Jaguars' season, it ended up on their side.
"We would’ve loved to have one more second. I mean it was really tight on our parameters," Bevell said.
"I mean our parameters would’ve been six [seconds] to get it and feel really comfortable with it because the one thing you don’t know, we’re not like the basketball that has the tenths and hundredths of a second on the clock. Where’s that? Is it 5.01 or is it 5 point whatever? You don’t really know that. You don’t really know what that time exactly is. But to get it done, we were pretty fired up to get that done in that time.”
It was just a nine-yard gain on an open slant against a prevent defense, but it was a play that meant the entire game. It was a play that the young, injured, and imperfect Jaguars' offense made perfect. From Lawrence to Shenault, that execution is what will continue to stand out to Bevell.
"Well, he did a great job. I mean you can’t minimize [what he did], like everything had to be right. The ball that he threw also, the accuracy on that throw which really helped Laviska [Shenault Jr.] to go down with it as well," Bevell said.
"The quickness is not necessarily the thing, but I think the thing I think was impressive was the distance that we had to go to get the first down in that time. I think that’s what really made it a spectacular play.”