Setting the Stage:
"2nd" Sunday Game (4:25 ET). Cards were bushwacked by the Texans. Jags are 7 & 3 coming off a 19 - 7 win in Cleveland and a 4-game winning streak. Jag defense is evolving into a powerhouse - ranked #1 in points-allowed, yards-per-play allowed, sacks and passing yards-allowed. They're tied for #1 in takeaways. Cards are 4 & 6 and not playing very well. They appear to be at the stage of the season where the temptation is to start younger players to "see what they've got." It will be interesting to see whether the Mon. night Seattle loss might breathe a few oxygen fumes into a Cardinal roster that seems to be on life-support.
Opponent's Last Game
Jags opened up a slight early lead and then waited for Cleveland to implode with critical turnovers in the 4Q to beat the Brownies 19 - 7
Cleveland received & returned the KO to the Jag 48. But Jackson's sack of Kizer forced them into a 3 & out. Punt fair caught at the Jag 10. They managed to peck their way to their own 34 where Norman's punt rolled out of bounds at the Cleveland 45. On the first play of the Cleve possession, Kizer's pass was intercepted by T Smith and run back. After Borles hit Lee for +16 yds, he hooked up with his TE (M Lewis) for a 10-yd TD. Jags 7 - Browns 0.
Onside kick nullified by penalty. TB on re-kick. Cleveland held to 3 & out. Mickens muffed & recovered the fair catch. Jag ball on their own 25. An aborted snap helped set up a Jag 3 & out, but Jags held Cleve to another 3 & out. Punt returned to Jag 33. A +29 yard run by Fournette helped move Jags to the Cleve 28 to end the quarter.
First Quarter Score: Jags 10 - Browns 0.
On the third play of the quarter, Lambo'a 38 yd FG try was good. Jags 10 - Browns 0.
KO returned to the Cleve 34. On the 6th play of the Cleveland possession, Kizer hit D Johnson for a 27-yd TD. Jags 10 - Browns 7
TB on KO. The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. Jags returned punt to their own 10. A 28-yd completion to Westbrook helped move the Jags close to midfield, but the drive stalled there. Punt returned to the Cleve 16. Jags held Browns to one more3 & out. Punt returned to Jag 42 with 4:44 left in the half. Jags ran off 13 plays before Lambo's 41-yd FG attempt was wide right. Kizer then took a knee to end the half.
1st Half Score: Jags 10 - Browns 7.
Jags received. TB on KO. Jags held to 3 & out. Cleve returned punt to their own 26. A +13 yd completion to Njoku moved the Browns to their own 43 where they were forced to punt.Punt O-O-B on the Jag 23. Jags went 3 & out. Punt was miffed/Jags recovered on the Cleve 31 but gave the ball back 3 plays later when Bortles was sacked (Garrett recovered). Cleve ball on its own 29. A sack by Fowler helped derail the next Brown possession. They punted from their own 42. TB on punt. Jags moved from their own 20 to the Cleveland 45 to reach the end of the quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Jags 10 - Browns 7.
Two plays into the quarter, Bortles took a sack to set up a punt. O-O-B at Cleve 14. Jags held Cleve to 3 & out. Punt downed at the Jag 23. The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. Four plays into the next Cleveland possession, Kizer's pass for Coleman was intercepted by Bouye. Jag ball on their own 48. They ran nearly 5-minutes off the clock before reaching the Cleveland 21 and icing the game with a 39-yd Lambo FG. Jags 13 - Browns 7
3:31 left. KO returned to the Cleve 22. On the 7th play of the Cleveland possession, Kizer was sacked Campbell and Ngakoue. Fowler Jr. recovered. Jags took over on their own 44 with 1:44 left. After Jags used up all three Cleve time outs and punted for a TB, Clevland started out on its own 20 with 1:24 still left to play. But Ngaloue sacked Kizer whose fumble was recovered in the end zone by T Smith (NFL log didn't say it, but XP was probably no good). Jags 19 - Browns 7
Cleve returned the KO to their own 42 with 1:14 left and ran out of space and time. Bortles took a final knee.
Final Score: Jags 19- Browns 7
Key Game Stats
Team Stats to Date
Bortles was 17 of 30 for 154 yds, 1 TD's and 0 interceptions. (Kizer was 16 of 32 for 179 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions)
Fournette was top Jax ground gainer with 111 yds on 28 carries. (Cleve gained 50 yds - 22 by Kizer - on the ground).
Bortles spread the ball around - leading receiver was Lee. Westbrook and Cole had 3 catches apiece. Their TE (Lewis) had couple of catches and a TD.
Defensively, Ramsay led the Jags with 6 tackles. Poluszny and T Smith were next with 5.
Jags racked up 5 sacks. (Ngakoue had 2.5, Fowler and Jackson had one apiece.Calais Campbell grabbed 0.5). Bortles was sacked twice.
Jags converted 6 of 20 (30%) 3rd downs. Cleve was 3 of 13 (23%)
Jags gained 3.2 yds per rushing play (Cleve runners held to 2.8 ypc).
Jags Net Punting average was 36.1 Cleve Net Punting Average was 39.8
Jags were penalized 6 times (Browns were penalized zero)
Jags was 1 or 1 (100%) in the Red Zone (Cleve was 0 for 0 (0%)
Turnover Ratio: Jags had Plus-4. (Jags lost one fumble/Browns lost 3. Jags lost 0 picks/Browns lost 2)
Offensive Yards - Jags 3,621 / Opp 2,756
Passing Yards - Jags 2,084/ Opp 1,884
Rushing Yards - Jags 1,606 /Opp 1,136
3rd Down Conversions - Jags 57/149...Opp: 43/132
Yards Per Off Play - Jags 5.3/Opp 4.5
Sacks- Jags 40.0.1/Opp 16.0
Field Goals- Jags 20/25...Opp: 12/13
Time of Possession - Jags 33:26/ Opp 28:12
Turnover Ratio - Jags :Plus- 11
Key Player Stats
Passing: - Bortles: Compl Avg - 58.4%...YPA: 6.6...TD: 12...Int: 7...Sacked: 16. Rating: 81.8
Rushing: Fournette - 740 yds on 175 Attempts for 4.2 YPA and 6 TD's
Ivory - 286 yds on 84 attempts for 3.4 YPA and 1 TD
Receiving: Lee: 43 for 538 yds, 12.5 YPR, 2TD's.
Hurns: 36 for 446 yds, 12.4 YPR. 2 TD's...
Ivory: 20 for 172 yds, 8.6 YPR, 1 TD's
M Lewis: 14 for 209 yds, 14.9 YPA, 5 TD's.
Field Goals -Lambo: 9 of 10
Punting -Nortman: 44.3 average. Of 54 punts - 24 TB's or inside the 20.
Punt Returns Mickens: 14 returns...10.7 avg
Lee: 5 returns...2.6 avg.
Kickoff Returns - Grant: 7 Returns...24.9 avg.
Tackles - T Smith 76...Jack 49...Church 46..Gipson 43
Sacks - 40 (Opp: 16) - Campbell 11.5...Ngakoue 9.0...Fowler 6.5...Jack 2.0...
Interceptions - Jax 13 / Opponents 7 - Bouye 4...T Smith 3...Gipson 3...Ramsay 2...Church 1
John Brown and Corey Peters are out. Ford, Golden, Penny, Mauro and Stanton are Questionable.
Reports in national media say Ramsay (hand) will be out, but the Jag website lists him as Questionable. Hurns (ankle) is out. Omamej, Payne and Parnett are Questionable. Fournette will play despite a chronically bum ankle.
WR1....11 Lee................xx Benn......xx Strong
LT........74 C Robinson...72 Wells
LG ..77 Omameh........73 Walker....64 Reed
OC .65 Linder.............69 Shatley
RT......78 Parnell...........75 Poehls
TE......89 M Lewis........83 Koyack..80 O' Shaughnessy
WR2 .88 Hurns...........84 Cole.......85 Mickens
QB ....05 Bortles..........07 Henne
RB....27 Fournette.......33 Ivory......24 Yeldin...................30 C Grant
LDE 97 Mauro..........72 Pierre.............94 X Williams
DT 98 Peters .........95 Gunter
DT 92 Rucker.........90 Nkemdiche
SLB 55 C Jones........54 Albright
ILB 20 Bucannon....58 Wright
ILB 56 Dansby........57 Bynes
WLB 43 Reddick.......96 K Martin
LCB 21 Peterson.....26 B Williams
RCB 25 T Williams....28 Bethel.
SS 41 Bethea.........36 Baker
FS 32 Mathieu ......30 Ford......H Miller
Matchup: Jax Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Bortles has the kind of stats you'd expect from a 7 & 3 team. His receivers aren't that far above the radar, but they have to be doing something right. This may be one of those games where it doesn't make much difference who P Peterson covers...Cards should make note that their TE (Mercedes Lewis) has 5 TD passes to his credit.
Statistically, it walks, talks and quacks as though Jags use the short pass to set up Fournette's runs. Bortles has a QB rating of over 80, but will occasionally leave the ball on the ground.
Jag ratios of plays-made vs. plays-allowed (especially ground yards, air yards, turnovers and sacks) are downright scary. Card defenders have shown that they can disrupt any team's offensive rhythm, but they don't do this consistently (not sure if it's a mental or conditioning thing).
Challenges for the Cardinals: Contain Lewis. Be aggressive on third downs. but also don't give up big plays.
Key Matchups: Bucannon vs. Lewis. C Jones and K Martin vs. C Robinson and Omameh
Matchup: Jax Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
To date, Jax has generated 1606 ground yards while giving up 1146. Kind of tells you what we've got to deal with.
When they want to, the Cardinals can shut down just about any running attack in the NFL. (They apparently didn't want to very much in Houston).
Challenges for Cardinals will be to contain Fournette while simultaneously putting pressure on Bortles.
Key Matchup: Cardinal LB's vs. Jag interior OL.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald......14 Nelson.....16 C Williams
LT 68 Veldheer.........69 Holden
LG 75 Boone..
C 53 Shipley..........70 Boehm.....79 Tuerk
RT........73 Wetzel..........78 Painter
TE .87 Niklas...........86 Seals-Jones
WR2 .13 Ja Brown......12 Jo Brown.....10 Golden...19 Agudosi
QB 05 Stanton........07 Gabbert........09 Barkley
RB 23 Peterson.......33 K Williams....35 Penny.....37 Foster
TE 84 Gresham ......
DE.......91 Ngakoue......56 Fowler Jr
NT.......95 A Jones........99 Dareus
DT.......97 M Jackson
DE......93 Campbell...94 Smoot
WLB...50 T Smith........53 B Brown
SLB ..44 Jack..............55 McCray
LCB...20 Ramsay........23 Patman
FS.....39 Gipson..........25 P Thompson
SS.....42 Church.........26 J Wilson
RCB..21 Bouye..........22 Colvin..............31 Myrick
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Jax Pass Defense
Jag pass rush is terrifying. Jax sackers have racked up 40 sacks while their pass blockers have only given up 16. Jax loves to play things close to the vest, lie in the weeds and then bit you - Challenge for Gabbert (after staying healthy) may be not turning over the ball under pressure or when sacked.
BA points out that Cardinal receivers have to do a better job of hanging onto the ball. We see a different problem - When Stanton (or Gabbert) is forced to throw the ball too early, their receivers don't have enough time to separate. This in turn forces the QB to throw to receivers who have the guys covering them draped all over their backs. Better pass protection is the key to hitting open receivers. Unfortunately, the matchups this week don't make this likely.
Perhaps this will be the week where Seals-Jones becomes Gabbert's safety net. Or perhaps Blaine will play catch with 6-6 220lb WR Carlton Agudosi (Rutgers alum).
Key Matchups: Veldheer and Wetzel vs. Nagakoue and Campbell. ....Seals-Jones or Agudosi vs. Church
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Jax Run Defense
TWhen he gets even a smidge of run blocking, Adrian Peterson can still look like an all pro. Unfortunately, he seldom gets the blocking he'll need. It also seems as if we're telegraphing our running plays - witness the now legendary 4th & 1 blow up). If we're going to keep Gabbert from getting repeatedly mugged, we'll have to hand the rock to AP at least 20 or 30 times Sunday - more as a counter-threat than an actual run-strategy.
Key Matchups: Boone, Boehm and Watford vs. Poluszny, Jpnes, Jack and T Smith, A Peterson vs Houston's LB's and Hal
All-Name Alert - Jags have a KR named "Corey Grant." (Amos...Amos...Amos).
K 04 Lambo
P 03 Nortman
H 03 Nortman
LS .49 Colin
KR 30 Grant
PR 11 Lee
K 04 Dawson
P 02 Lee
H 02 Lee
LS 49 Drescher
KR 33 K Williams
PR 33 K Williams
Matchup: Houston Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
We like Lee better than Nortman and Dawson better than Lambo. Don't know much about Grant and Lee as returners. Do know that K Williams hasn't posed much of a threat. Perhaps this will be the first week in ages that our ST efforts't don't get undermined by penalties on Bethel.
Key matchups: FG's and punting may be our only salvation.
Houston - HC Doug Marrone...OC Nathaniel Hackett... DC Todd Wash... ST Joe DeCamillis. These guys may have flown beneath the radar coming into this season, but they're "no names" no longer.
Cards - HC Bruce Arians. OC Harold Goodwin, DC James Bettcher ST Amos Jones. The first Houston play after the Texans stopped us on a crucial 4th & 1 - was a 36+ yd TD scamper by Foreman. Tells you a lot about the state of the Cardinal morale. Heat has been on Goodman to fix the OL and A Jones to turn around special teams.
How to Beat Jags
Make fewer mistakes than they do in a low-scoring war of attrition. Counterintuitive play calling - i.e. when trapped on our own 1-yard line, throw a Hail Mary.
We're outmatched up and down the roster. We'll have to play harder and smarter to have any chance.