It’s kind of crazy to think just one year ago Jacksonville was a laughing stock, and now they just beat the Patriots, and nobody’s too surprised about it. The Jaguars started things off by using plenty of singleback sets (your standard set with 3 receivers,a tight end and a fullback). 12 of Jacksonville’s first 17 plays were from singleback sets. They used a total of 32 plays from singleback sets (45.1% of all their plays), and 24 were passes. This was for a good reason, while they averaged a respectable 4.25 yards per running play from those sets, and they gained 8.88 yards per passing play from those sets (7.72 yards per play overall). When you can have success out of a singleback set, it really allows you to do anything, you don’t have to run a different set if you don’t want to, which really allows you to control the game.
Another thing Jacksonville did well was stopping New England’s run game. Last week against Houston, when the Patriots had multiple tight ends in the game they averaged an insane 8.92 yards per carry, and they averaged 9 yards per carry with a fullback in the game. However this week against Jacksonville, they averaged just 3.31 yards per carry with a fullback in, and just 2.8 yards per carry with multiple tight ends in. However, that didn’t mean New England wasn’t able to find ways to use a fullback to their advantage. The Jaguars were clearly selling out to stop the run when they saw New England in a rushing set. In the Patriots 6 pass attempts with a fullback in the game, they gained 66 yards (which is 11 yards per play for you math fans out there). In fact, both teams were able to find success passing the ball out of apparent rushing sets, Jacksonville averaged 16 yards per passing play with a fullback in the game (although on just 4 plays), and they averaged 11.4 yards per attempt with multiple tight ends in the game.
Blake Bortles had a very good game last Sunday, he passed for 376 yards with an average of 8.4 yards per play. Jacksonville seemed to try and take advantage of his good game by giving him a fair amount of 4 wide and 5 wide sets. The Jaguars used a total of twenty 4 wide or 5 wide sets (28.2% of all plays) and sixteen of them were passes. However it didn’t really help him the way they hoped, as they averaged just 4.85 yards per play from those sets. On the other side of the ball, New England wasn’t too much better from 5 wide sets, as they averaged just 5.5 yards per play from those sets, however when they had just 4 receivers in the game they averaged 7.2 yards per play, which was one of the highest averages from any set they ran (well, technically it’s two sets, there’s 4 wide with a tight end, and 4 wide with a halfback, but I grouped them together). However despite that being one of the only sets New England had some success with, they hardly used it at all. The first time they used a 4 wide set was their 5 play from scrimmage, and after that they didn’t run another play from that set until there was 1:42 left in the third quarter (on a bit of a side note, that play was also New England’s first touchdown of the game). My best guess as to why they didn’t use that set very often earlier in the game is because they struggled from 5 wide sets and from singleback sets. When using singleback sets, the Patriots averaged 5.55 yards per passing play, but rushed for just 3.5 yards per play, which meant they they averaged just 4.68 yards per play from singleback sets, which was over 3 yards per play less that how many Jacksonville averaged from that set. So, if you’re struggling from 5 wide and singleback sets, why would you have success from a 4 wide set? After all a 4 wide set is basically just a set in between a 5 wide and a singleback set. The reason for it is… well I don’t know. I was thinking that maybe having an extra man to block could help slow down the Jaguars pass rush, which would then give New England’s receivers more time to get open, but if having one extra blocker would help, you would’ve thought they would do better from singleback sets where they have a tight end and a halfback to help block. Or if having more receivers in the game would help them, then you’d figure that they would’ve done better with 5 receivers in the game. It’s not outrageous that a 4 wide set could be a teams best set, but it’s a bit surprising to see the high discrepancy between each set. I guess Josh McDaniels probably figured it was a fluke, and that if he kept running 4 wide sets it would eventually revert back to the norm. Would it have? I guess we’ll never know. But they did average 6 yards per play from 4 wide sets last week against Houston so I think it’s at least fair to say they probably should’ve ran a few more of them.
On Jacksonville’s last drive of the game, they had the ball up 11 with 3:40 left in the game. They just needed to run a few minutes off the clock, but they were determined to not be overly cautionary with their playcalling like they were last year in the AFC championship game against New England. After losing 6 yards on a run, the Jaguars lined up in a three tight end set. Many would run the ball twice, and then trust their defense. But instead Jacksonville passed the ball, and gained 22 yards because of it. They faced 2 subsequent third downs on that drive, passed both times, and were able the end the game on that drive, and come away with about as big of a win that you can have in week 2.