- Kevin C. Cox/Getty
- The Jacksonville Jaguars blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
- The loss prompted observers to question the Jaguars’ decision to kneel the ball twice with 55 seconds remaining in the first half.
- When the Jaguars trailed the Patriots by four with two minutes remaining, they had to score a touchdown, a circumstance that may have been different had they tried to score at the end of the first half.
The New England Patriots overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit on Sunday to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and advance to the Super Bowl.
And while the story of the game has rightfully been the Patriots’ perfect fourth-quarter execution, the Jaguars also fumbled away a golden opportunity to pull off the upset of the NFL season.
Though Jacksonville went scoreless in the fourth quarter and failed to stop the Patriots’ offense down the stretch, one standout sequence the Jaguars may wish they could have back actually came in the first half.
With 55 seconds left before halftime, the Patriots kicked off to the Jaguars trailing 14-10. After a touchback, Jacksonville brought the ball to the 25-yard line, with two timeouts remaining, but then proceeded to kneel twice as time expired.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, no other team this season had knelt with that much time left.
The Jaguars decided to kneel with 55 seconds remaining in the first half and 2 timeouts.
No team had taken a knee with over 50 seconds remaining in the first half this season.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2018
The decision came even after the Jaguars had moved the ball well against the Patriots in the first half, and their kicker Josh Lambo later nailed two long field goals, suggesting his range and accuracy could have been useful if the Jags had been able to get into field-goal range. And the Jaguars were in line to receive the ball at the start of the second half.
In kneeling, a conservative strategy designed to avoid a turnover, the Jaguars seemed as if they were playing not to lose, afraid of the tide turning against the underdogs.
I hate when teams do that. You have 2 TOs and :55 seconds. It’s like you are telling your offense we don’t think you are that good.
— Russillo (@ryenarussillo) January 21, 2018
please tell me how kneeling with 55 seconds left and two timeouts doesn't say everything about what the jags think of blake bortles. i wanna hear this one.
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) January 21, 2018
Jags gonna kneel with :55 seconds and that tells you all you need to know
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) January 21, 2018
In the NFC Championship later Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles drove 60 yards and kicked a field goal against the Minnesota Vikings after getting the ball 29 seconds before halftime. The NFL world piled on the Jaguars for their decision to kneel.
Jacksonville took a knee with 55 seconds left in the first half. Eagles drive for a FG with 29 seconds left in the half.
— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) January 22, 2018
Why did the eagles try to score? Didnt they know there were fewer than 55 seconds left?
— Jason (@JasonKirkSBN) January 22, 2018
When the Patriots took a 24-20 lead with 2:48 remaining in the game, the Jaguars were then forced to attempt a touchdown drive.
Quarterback Blake Bortles got his team close. After a few completions, Jacksonville faced fourth-and-15 on the Patriots’ 43-yard line with 1:47 remaining. Bortles attempted a deep throw to wide receiver Dede Westbrook, but it was tipped by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, giving the ball back to the Patriots, who then ran out the clock.
The Jaguars needed a touchdown in that situation. Perhaps it may have been different if they drove the ball at the end of the first half.
Circumstances change with each play. There’s no guarantee that the Jaguars would have scored if they drove the ball at the end of the first half. But in a playoff game in which points can be scarce, a decision to not try to score is sure to attract criticism.