Jaguars vs. Packers Take 2: Anatomy of a Near Upset
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
The house may be burning, but it looks like the sprinkler system has kicked on in Jacksonville.
Just how did the Jaguars keep it close all afternoon?
A second look at the tape will tell the tale.
The Real Story
All the focus today will be on Blaine Gabbert, but the Jacksonville defense is the real story.
Instead, Jacksonville came ready to hit. The Jags were depleted, but spent the entire afternoon punishing Aaron Rodgers.
He was regularly rushed and pressured. Sacks by Jeremey Mincey and Andre Branch helped stave off the onslaught and kept Jacksonville in the game.
Despite outgaining the Packers by more than 100 yards, the Jaguars offense didn't have a sharp game.
Gabbert hit a variety of deep passes, not including three near misses, and did a good job moving between the 20s, but the lack of production from Rashad Jennings in the run game killed any chance of putting up more points.
If there is an encouraging tone for the second half of the season, it has to be the return of the formidable Jaguars defense.
If they play everyone the way they played Green Bay, they may be able to finish the year with five wins.
Gabbert had his first career 300-yard day and was on the money on deep throws. He was so effective, one had to briefly wonder why the Jaguars have been holding him back from going long.
Then he'd illustrate why. While he made a couple of "wow" throws, there were some real cringe-inducing moments as well. He was only 4-of-9 for 11 yards (with a touchdown) inside the Green Bay 30-yard line.
That kind of lack of production in close speaks highly to how much the Jaguars desperately missed Maurice Jones-Drew. Had he played, Jacksonville might well have won.
Both Cecil Shorts (8-for-116) and Justin Blackmon (4-for-67) had big days that were nearly bigger except for a pair of overturned catches.
Obviously Branch and Mincey deserve special mention for their pressure on Rodgers, but the line backers played very well also.
Russell Allen had six tackles on the day.
On the whole, the Jaguars held the Packers to just 62 yards on 23 designed rushing plays.
Rashad Jennings had huge gains in the passing game but ran the ball poorly, and his fumble was a back-breaker.
It's hard to know who to fault on the blocked punt, that was the biggest play of the game against Jacksonville.
For all the good things Gabbert did (and there were many), his play on 3rd-and-5 from the Green Bay 12 was a killer.
Gabbert dropped back to pass, continued to back peddle in the face of a light rush and swung the ball out to Jennings for a two-yard loss.
This was just an awful decision.
First of all, in that situation, a sack doesn't hurt. The Jaguars would still have had a field goal of less than 40 yards.
They were trailing 21-12 at the time, meaning a touchdown was imperative at some point.
With points assured either way, Gabbert has to hang in the pocket and make a throw for the first down. Checking off to a give-up play is inexcusable with the game on the line.
If that was a designed throw, then it was a terrible design. If it was on Gabbert, it was a terrible decision.
Mike Mularkey opted for a field goal from the 4-yard line trailing 14-3 late in the first half. Given the amount of time left, this is probably the right call.
He also opted for a two-point conversion before the half. Gabbert threw behind Blackmon, who couldn't haul it in. Mularkey later repented of the decision, but his self-flagellation was unnecessary.
Had the Jaguars made the extra point, they would have spent most of the second half trailing by one or eight points instead of by two and by nine.
Either way, they would have had to go for the conversion at some point. By failing on it early, they knew what they had to do.
There was no path to victory for Jacksonville that didn't require two points, so attempting it in the first half was a fine choice.
Finally, Mularkey chose to go for it when trailing by six with 2:59 to play on 4th-and-4 from the Green Bay 44. Again, this was obviously the right call.
Keep an Eye On...
Where do the Jaguars go from here?
They have back-to-back home games, and they simply have to put up a better accounting than they did in their first three.
If Gabbert continues to find success downfield over the second half of the season, and the defense plays up to its capacity, the Jaguars could well go 4-5 down the stretch.
Such a finish might be optimistic and likely wouldn't be enough to save Gene Smith's job, but it could convince Shad Khan that Mularkey and Gabbert have done enough to hang around.
Whether the loss to the Packers is something to build on or a sign that they need to rebuild in Jacksonville has yet to be determined.
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