The Jacksonville Jaguars were 2-3, needing a win to stay in the hunt in the competitive AFC South. The Denver Broncos were 4-1, with the NFL's No. 2 offense, and feeling pretty good about their defense after a 16-13 win over Tampa Bay in week five.
Going against the Jaguars, with the No. 23 ranked pass defense, the Broncos should put on a passing clinic, right? Wrong!
In the end, the Jaguars came out on top by one touchdown, 24-17, but it wasn't any one individual performance or one big play or amazing comeback that got Jacksonville their third win; it was the turnovers by Denver.
Fans have heard it from every coach after every game during the five-month season, "When you turn the ball over, it's hard to win football games," or "When you win the turnover battle, you usually win the game." It is cliche, but it is true.
When this game is analyzed, Denver's defense will be blamed for allowing Maurice Jones-Drew to rack up 125 yards and two touchdowns, or the two safeties that converged on Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis but failed to bring him down, letting him go 30 yards to make it 24-10 with 3:48 left in the third quarter.
The defense did give up 416 yards of total offense, but all those yards are deceiving, because they did make key stops when they needed to and held the Jaguars to 24 points.
Earlier in the season, 24 points would have been nothing to Jay Cutler and the high-flying Denver offense; they could score 24 or more in the first half, as we saw in week two with the Chargers and week three with the Saints. The key to those particular games however, was the turnovers.
Denver committed only one turnover week two, and two in week three. Both times, the opposing team had the chance to put the game away, was unable to, Against the Chargers, it was due to the Broncos' offensive ability to drive any amount of yards and score fairly effortlessly. For the Saints it was due to a missed field goal.
The offense has since come back to earth, averaging a mere 399.7 yards per game. But the turnovers have since begun to come more frequently, and with more fruitful results for the opponent. The Jaguars took Denver's three turnovers in the first half for 10 points, and the game was lost by seven. On that statistic alone, the Broncos "gave" the game to the Jags.
Of course, there is more to it than that, including an early fourth quarter drive that began on the Denver 28 and ended 58 seconds later on the Denver 30. The Broncos put themselves at a disadvantage with their turnovers, but they also failed to capitalize on opportunities in the fourth quarter, when Jacksonville's offense was clearly spent.
The Broncos forced the Jags to punt on their first three possessions of the fourth quarter, and Denver squandered two of those opportunities, the most blatant of these a drive that started on the Denver 31 with 6:50 left in the game with Denver down only seven. They went three-and-out, gaining four total yards, and would never get the ball back, as Jacksonville put on a sustained 5:46 minute drive to run out the clock.
In the end, it was the turnovers the doomed the Broncos, and the questions will remain. If Marshall hadn't fumbled and Denver had scored, making it 14-3, would the Jags have been able to climb out? If Cutler hadn't fumbled early in the first quarter and the Jags hadn't gotten themselves back in it early with the field goal to make it 7-3, would Denver have run away with the game?
Those things didn't happen, and Denver finds itself 4-2 leading San Diego by one game in the AFC West. Next week they will travel to New England to take on the seemingly clueless Patriots on Monday Night Football before their bye week. It's time for the offense to get back into it and score 30+ points. A healthy Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler would help that cause. This is the NFL, though, and anything can happen.