The Jets were well aware of the assignment ahead of them in Jacksonville today. And the task was every bit as tough as advertised.
Their Sam Darnold-led offense struggled to sustain drives until later in the second half and the defense was under assault from the uber-accurate Blake Bortles as the 3-1 Jaguars held off the 1-3 Jets for a 31-12 victory in the Florida First Coast heat and humidity at TIAA Bank Field.
It was the third straight loss to the Green & White after their 48-17 opening-night success at Detroit. Now they get a much-needed three-game homestand, playing the Broncos, Colts and Vikings the next three Sundays at MetLife Stadium.
Among the Jets' highlights were more receptions and more yards after the catch by WR Quincy Enunwa and TE Jordan Leggett's first NFL touchdown. On defense, Avery Williamson got his hands on Darryl Roberts' interception and Trumaine Johnson's fumble return that set up nine points, and Buster Skrine added a WR strip and recovery. But it wasn't nearly enough.
The lowlights: Bortles completed 29 of 38 passes for 388 yards and two TDs and the Jaguars gained 503 yards, the most by an opponent in a Jets loss since Indianapolis' 538 yards in 2003.
Here are eight chronological observations on the game:
1. Early Punting Heroics
The punt team was the Jets' first-quarter standout unit, not always a good sign. Lachlan Edwards' first punt was downed at the Jaguars 6 by Roberts. Drive 2 and the offense couldn't get a first down. This time Edwards got a favorable bounce for a 61-yard net, with Roberts and Terrence Brooks taking down PR Jaydon Mickens for no gain at the Jaguars 23.
2. Defense, Good and Bad
The Jets' red zone defense was their first-half saving grace as the Jags twice drove inside the visitors' 20 off of those two punts but had only two Josh Lambo FGs to show for it. But in between the 20s the Jets defense was under the gun — Bortles' gun. On the hosts' third drive, they struck for the game's first TD on Bortles' 31-yard catch-and-run to T.J. Yeldon, turned loose out of the backfield and untouched to the end zone. Bortles completed 15 of his first 16 throws for 192 yards and the Jaguars had 241 after the score made it 13-0 with 1:47 left in the first half.
Best Images from the Week 4 Matchup in Jacksonville
3. Lost Gamble
The Jets offense moved in fits and starts and not very far in the first 30 minutes, for 86 yards total. But inside the two-minute warning the Green & White got it just across midfield. From second-and-1, Darnold just missed two open receivers downfield, Bilal Powell and, when head coach Todd Bowles decided to go for it, Quincy Enunwa, to turn the ball over with 1:00 left. The Jaguars jumped on that opened door to get Lambo in range for a 54-yard field goal and a 16-0 lead, which the hosts took into the locker room, along with a 270-86 yardage advantage and almost 2-to-1 in possession time.
4. Safety Bulletin
The tough plays continued early in the third quarter. Good news: The Jets defense finally forced a punt by rookie Logan Cooke. The bad news: The ball was downed at the Jets 2. More bad news: On the next play, Isaiah Crowell's elbow came down on the goal line as he tried to get out for a safety. The Jacksonville lead ticked up to 18-0.
5. Small Breakthrough
Finally, the Green & White defense and offense conspired to produce points in the third quarter. Bortles' third-and-12 throw from his 18 was batted behind the line by Williamson and picked off by Roberts for his second pick as a Jet. Suddenly the visitors were in business at the JAX-22. The Jets prevailed on a third-down replay challenge of a Darnold-to-Jermaine Kearse "incompletion" but couldn't close the deal with six so they went with three on Jason Myers' 27-yard FG in his first pro home stadium and trimmed their deficit to 18-3 with 4:58 to play in the period.
6. Big Fallback
Just when the Jets had a small glimmer of hope, the Jaguars extinguished it. Bortles got Donte Moncrief 1-on-1 against Johnson. Moncrief beat Tru, caught the ball in stride and took the pass 67 yards for a touchdown that opened the Jaguars' lead to their largest of the afternoon, 25-3.
7. Nine Quick Points
Darnold's best drive of the day moved 50 yards to the JAX-20 after another magnificent Quincy Enunwa YAC effort and resulted in Myers' second FG, from 38 yards out. Then on the Jaguars' next offensive play, Williams did it again, prying the ball out of T.J. Yeldon's grasp on a running play, with CB Trumaine Johnson scooping and dashing to the JAX-5. In short order, Darnold found Leggett for the Jets' first TD of the game and Leggett's first TD of his pro career. The two-point pass fell incomplete but the visitors were back within 25-12 with 11:18 to play.
8. Crosses and Uppercuts
The best chance to miraculously get back in this game was a longball from Darnold intended for an open Robby Anderson with 9:18 to play. The pass was just too long. That turned it back over to Bortles, much of whose success came on shallow crosses to Dede Westbrook and Yeldon. Westbrook wound up with nine catches for 130 yards, his last going for 20 yards, which along with Jamal Adams' half-the-distance unnecessary roughness put the ball at the Jets 10. From there, Yeldon ran four straight times, including the final TD with 27 seconds left. The Jags went for two points after that, but Bortles' pass for Westbrook sailed too far, one of the few that didn't find its mark all game.