Jags far from perfect, still very good in win over Giants
The opening weekend was ugly. Loads of penalties. Offensive struggles. A hamstring injury to leading rusher Leonard Fournette, and a near meltdown by the vaunted defense after linebacker Myles Jack gave Jacksonville a 20-9 lead with a 32-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter.
For now, the Jaguars will settle for a 20-15 season-opening victory over the Giants on Sunday that spoiled the New York debuts of coach Pat Shurmur and halfback Saquon Barkley and the return of star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
“We were talking about it in the locker room,” said quarterback Blake Bortles , who threw a short touchdown pass and helped Jacksonville take a 13-6 halftime lead. “You never really know how Week 1 is going to go. You have an idea. You know you’ve been going against a pretty good defense all camp and all preseason long. But to come out and find a way to win when you didn’t have your ‘A’ game as an offense, I think it’s pretty special.”
The Jaguars won because their defense, which scored seven touchdowns last season, carried them. It limited New York to three field goals and stopped a late drive after Beckham caught passes of 21 and 19 yards to help the Giants reach the Jacksonville 36.
However, the Jaguars held, unlike in the AFC title game, when the Patriots scored the final 14 points to advance to the Super Bowl.
If there was a negative, it was giving up a 68-yard touchdown run to Barkley less than a minute after Jack scored. The rookie finished with 106 yards on 18 carries.
Still, the win gave Jacksonville a positive note ahead of a home matchup with New England, which beat the Houston Texans 27-20.
Jack, who scored on a pass tipped by Abry Jones, is looking forward to it.
“It’s definitely on my mind. As soon as that clock hit double zero, I was already thinking about New England,” he said. “I can’t wait for that game, and I’m looking forward to Jacksonville being out there.”
Coming off a 3-13 season, the Giants refused to take solace in a good effort, not with a game at Dallas next weekend.
“It’s disappointing when you lose,” Shurmur said. “The one good thing is our team fought from the front to the back. They fought all the way through the game. Unfortunately as is the case in a lot of these games that are close, we just didn’t make enough plays.”
Here’s some things we learned in the Jaguars win:
O-LINE WOES: The Giants offense line remains a work in progress. The revamped group needs to give Eli Manning (23 of 37 for 224) time to find his talented receivers and open holes for Barkley.
Facing a tough pass defense, Manning spent most of the game hitting short passes. There wasn’t much time to look downfield.
Ereck Flowers didn’t have a smooth transition going from left to right tackle. He was whistled for a tripping call and a hold on the opening drive. Left tackle Nate Solder also picked up a holding call.
TOO MANY FLAGS: The Jaguars biggest problem was penalties. They were called 11 times for 119 yards.
“We know that we can be better than that,” coach Doug Marrone said. “At the end of day, we were able to get the win. If you keep on that track, that stuff will bite you.”
BECKHAM BACK: Stop worrying about the left ankle Beckham broke in October. In his first game in almost 11 months, the NFL’s top-paid receiver was the best player on the field. He caught 11 passes for 111 yards and drew two pass interference penalties late in the first half to set up a field goal.
“Just being out there and competing with the best, I wish we would have gotten a win, but at the same time it’s a good starting point for our team,” Beckham said.
INJURIES: Marrone wasn’t concerned about Fournette, who finished with nine carries for 41. Backup T.J. Yeldin led the team with 14 carries for 51 yards and Bortles had four for 42. Jacksonville rushed for 137 yards.
“He’s had it before, he knows how to treat it,” Marrone said of Fournette. “That makes things pretty optimistic, which normally I’m not that optimistic.”
GIANTS NEW DEE: Coordinator James Bettcher’s 3-4 scheme limited the Jaguars to 305 yards, including 121 in the second half. Janoris Jenkins had an interception and the Jags tight ends and receivers combined for 12 catches, with only two plays being 20 or more yards.