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Red-Zone Defense Boosts Bolts to Win
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Bend but don’t break.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to move the ball downfield at times against the Chargers, but when it mattered most, the Bolts held strong. Their grit directly contributed to San Diego’s 31-25 win. Holding a team to three points instead of seven is huge, and something Head Coach Mike McCoy was pleased to see come to fruition on Sunday.
“(It’s) situational football,” McCoy said. “Defensively, if you hold them to field goals and they’re down there four or five times (and) you score enough points you’re going to win those games. If the offense goes down there and settles for field goals instead of touchdowns, it’s a whole different game. Then you don’t have that one score offensively that doesn’t kill you. It’s critical and we spend so much time through training camp and all through the year in situational football. It really pays off with days like today.”
“It’s big-time,” safety Jahleel Addae added. “Coach always harps on red-zone defense and as cliché as it sounds, we bent but we didn’t break. It gave us a chance to stay in the game.”
True to Addae’s words, for the majority of the game, the Bolts’ red-zone defense didn’t snap. Three times in the red-zone, the Chargers held the Jags on third down and forced them into field goals of fewer than 30 yards.
After giving up plays of 20, 14 and 25-yards on the Jags’ opening possession, Jacksonville’s drive stalled at the San Diego eight-yard line after a pass from quarterback Blake Bortles to wide receiver Allen Hurns fell short. Kicker Josh Myers trotted out and made a 22-yard field goal.
Although they gave up yardage and got down to the Bolts’ seven-yard line during the second quarter, Bortles was flagged for an illegal forward pass on what would have been a touchdown. From there, Myers kicked a 27-yarder giving his team a two-point, 9-7 lead over the visiting Chargers.
It was déjà vu all over again for the Jags in the third quarter. The Chargers’ defense held them to a third red-zone field goal after another illegal forward pass by Bortles at the Chargers’ five forced a loss of downs.
Nine points instead of 21 was a major differential when the clock struck zero. Cornerback Brandon Flowers said the defensive play-calling was on point and aided them in keeping the Jaguars’ offense off-kilter.
“That goes into good play-calling,” Brandon Flowers said. “We wanted to mix it up and show them some things they hadn’t seen on film and we executed. We knew we could throw them off the first couple times but you have to give credit to the coaching.”
Echoing his head coach’s statements, cornerback Jason Verrett said red-zone defense is preached every time they take the field, but capitalizing on it and getting a win makes it extra special.
“Once we get close to that red-zone, we’re not letting them in,” Verrett added. “They got (two touchdowns) and we’re not really happy about that but the way we fought previous to that, I’m just excited about the way we played in the red zone.”
On the flip side, the Chargers’ offense scored touchdowns in four of their five trips to the red-zone. Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman mentioned seeing their defense hold the Jags’ offense and the Bolts’ offense convert 80% of their red-zone drives truly aided the “relief” of getting their third win.
“Being able to capitalize and go down and score, it just all came together,” Inman said. “It’s fun to actually see that happen.”