Jaguars gaining in AFC South despite stalling in red zone
Nov. 20, 2015
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars have gained ground in the AFC South despite persistent problems in the red zone.
The Jaguars (4-6), who have won three of four, have scored just four touchdowns in their last 14 trips inside the 20-yard line. It's the biggest issue for coach Gus Bradley's surging team and one the Jaguars surely will make a priority over the next 10 days.
Jacksonville hosts San Diego (2-7) next week.
"Definitely an area that we need to take a strong look at," Bradley said Friday, about 13 hours after Jacksonville rallied to beat division rival Tennessee 19-13. "I know it's popped up from game to game, and we have to address it."
The Jaguars finished 1 for 5 in the red zone against the Titans, settling for four short field goals. The lone touchdown, a 5-yard pass from Blake Bortles to Julius Thomas with 3:30 remaining, provided the winning points.
But those failures were as much the focus during the postgame frivolity.
"I thought we did some good stuff from the 20 to the 20, obviously," Bortles said. "But we lacked a little bit in our red-zone efficiency when we got down there."
Jacksonville misfired on throws, got stuffed on runs and only scored when the Titans put outside linebacker Derrick Morgan in one-on-one coverage against Thomas.
Throw in Bortles' interception at the Titans 12-yard line — he snapped the ball at the 23, just outside the red zone — and the Jaguars were downright dreadful in and around the most important real estate in football.
It's nothing new, either.
The Jaguars failed twice to score touchdowns in three goal-to-go situations last week against Baltimore, but managed to win with a late drive aided by a facemask penalty the NFL said never should have been flagged. They went 0 for 2 in the red zone in a loss at the New York Jets the week before that. And against Buffalo in London last month, Jacksonville scored one touchdown in three trips inside the 20.
That was the game in which the Jaguars ran backup Toby Gerhart four consecutive times at the goal line and failed to get in.
Last week against the Ravens, running back T.J. Yeldon and fade routes didn't get it done. At the Jets, a penalty, a sack and then a fumble by Bortles doomed a goal-to-go situation.
With Yeldon dealing with a foot injury, the Jaguars gave Denard Robinson a chance against the Titans. Robinson picked up 5 yards on first down and then was stopped for no gain on two more runs before Jacksonville settled for a field goal.
"D-Rob actually did some good things for us," Bradley said. "We felt like he ran the ball pretty effectively, but we'll just continue to look at that."
Despite the red-zone woes, the Jaguars have managed to find ways to win games. Of course, a few more trips to the end zone probably would lead to a little more breathing room in close games.
And the Jags might not have to be so resilient.
"I think we realize that every game is different, and just because you did it one week doesn't mean it'll automatically show up the next week," Bradley said. "So it's something we can build on and talk to the players about, but more so to understand, 'What does it take to get to that point where you do have that faith?'"