JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If the Jets had lost to the Jaguars on Sunday by a score of, say, 12-3, we would not be having this conversation.
Everyone understood going in that the Jacksonville defense would be a stiff early challenge for rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, and most expected a close, low-scoring contest.
Then the game began, and the Jets' defense crumbled in the face of much-maligned Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, resulting in a 31-12 loss.
“We made him look amazing,” linebacker Avery Williamson said, “because we didn’t do our jobs.”
That was an understatement. Bortles was 29-for-38 for 388 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (on a tipped ball), and he rushed three times for 28 yards.
The Jaguars totaled 503 yards – the most allowed by the Jets since 2008 - possessed the ball for 37:35 and did not punt until the third quarter. At one point, Bortles was 11-for-11 for 111 yards.
It would have been even worse for the Jets if they had not forced three Jacksonville turnovers while committing none themselves.
“If guys are not [angry] about it, then there’s something wrong,” linebacker Derron Lee said.
It did not help the Jets' defense that the Jaguars dominated in time of possession on a day when the heat index was 95 degrees at kickoff. “I don’t want to make an excuse, but it’s true,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “You are out here in Florida with the humidity and you are not used to it. More than anything, it makes you tired and fatigued.”
There were too many breakdowns to list here, but the most dramatic was the touchdown that clinched the game, a 67-yard pass down the right sideline in which Bortles hit Donte Moncrief, who blew past Trumaine Johnson to make it 25-3 late in the third quarter.
“Hell of a ball, hell of a route,” Johnson said. “He caught it and scored.”
But the most persistent problem for the Jets was stopping the Jaguars’ underneath crossing routes against zone alignments, which consistently found wide-open spaces, especially in the first half.
Coach Todd Bowles and several of his players insisted this was no surprise, and that it had been practiced thoroughly. It did not appear that way when game time came.
“We ran under routes all week, over and over, and everyone knew what was going on,” Bowles said. “We’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Said Johnson, “They had a game plan and they executed it well. All credit to them.”
Dede Westbrook caught nine passes for 130 yards. Moncrief caught five for 109. Starting running back Leonard Fournette did not play in the second half. No matter.
“It’s disappointing, but at the same time they’re in the NFL, too; they make plays,” safety Jamal Adams said.
Linebacker Avery Williamson tipped a ball that resulted in an interception and forced a fumble, but afterward, he was more focused on his own breakdowns.
“We just weren’t in the right positions on the zone coverage,” he said. “As a leader on my team, I accept that I messed up a couple of times and I have to be better. It’s very disappointing knowing that, shoot, I was responsible.”
He had plenty of company.