Hidden Yardage, Mistakes Kill Jags

The difference between winning and losing in the NFL is usually just a few plays here and there. The Jaguars simply haven't been making those plays.

On Cincinnati's first offensive possession Sunday, Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis dropped an interception that he would've been able to run back for a sure touchdown. A pick-six would've been a horrible way for a streaky young quarterback like Ryan Fitzpatrick to start out, but he was given a second chance and led his team down for a seemingly easy touchdown drive. In the stat sheet that play reads as a simple incompletion, but it turned out to be much, much bigger than that.

"How do you think the game would look if that near interception turns into a pick six, we're up 7-0 to start the game? One of our best playmakers has his hands on the ball about to go pick six, and just don't quite get it. They end up converting a couple third downs and go down and punch it in and score a touchdown there. So yeah, you're talking about a fine line," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio explained in his Monday press conference.

The Mathis drop was not the only play the defense came close, but didn't make. Reggie Nelson recorded an interception in the third quarter that was called back by an offsides penalty from rookie Derrick Harvey. That play potentially cost the team 25 yards.

"We had one interception called back on an offsides where Derrick (Harvey) was just anxious, just wanted so bad to get there, probably pressing a little bit and went on the hard count and got drawn offsides and so the interception was negated," Del Rio explained. "And then we had another one later in the game. When the game got close again, I said ‘Guys, he's going to throw you one. This game is going to get close. He's going to throw you one.' We had a shot with Brian (Williams) and we didn't end up catching it. We could have come out with four interceptions; how different would that game look with those four plays?

Those missed opportunities loomed mighty large in a game that was ultimately decided by two points. The Jaguars committed 12 penalties for 86 yards in Sunday's game, and most experts believe that 100 yards of field position is equivalent to seven points. There's you difference in the game.

Some of the seemingly undisciplined behavior spilled over when defensive tackle John Henderson fought Bengals offensive lineman Alex Whitworth and was thrown out of the game.

"You can see he and the guy going at it, probably going at it for a couple of plays," Del Rio said as he gave his take on the incident. "I mean it wasn't like it was the first time they had gone after it, but I don't have anything to add from what I said yesterday. Two guys for whatever reason they both went after each other pretty good there and got ejected, as they should, and I'm sure will pay fines as they should."

A frustrated player playing on an underachieving team, and that frustration certainly boiled over Sunday afternoon. Del Rio didn't seem to think it was too big of a deal.

"Need to find a way to keep our composure there."

Although he's certainly disappointed with the Jaguars 3-5 start, Del Rio did find some silver linings on the season.

"Positives are every game we've had a chance to win," Del Rio explained. "There has not been a team that we've gone up against yet that we weren't in a position to take control of and win the game. All eight; that's a positive."

Although the Jaguars have had opportunities to win every game, the case can also be made that they've had their chances to lose every game, and they've only made enough plays to win three out of eight. In 2002, under Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin, the team lost 10 games while having one of the least talented teams in franchise history. Eight of those 10 losses were by one score or less.

What's the difference between the 2002 team and the 2008 team? About $70 million of payroll.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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