Jaguars should have taken the field goal at the end of the first half

Jacksonville Jaguars v Cincinnati Bengals
Getty Images

When it comes to any football-based scoring chart, a bright line exists between the numbers 16 and 17. At 16, it’s a two-score game. At 17, it’s a three-score game.

On Thursday night, the Jaguars eschewed a field goal as short as any field goal could be on fourth and goal, opting to try to turn a 14-0 lead into a 21-0 halftime margin. Like 17-0, however, 21-0 is a three-score lead.

After the game, Jaguars coach Urban Meyer faced a thorough and probing interrogation about the decision to punt on a field goal that would have turned a two-score game into a three-score game. Actually, he was asked only a couple of low-hanging-fruit questions about it.

“Was there any doubt about going for that fourth down to end the first half?” a reporter asked Meyer, based on the transcript distributed by the team.

“No doubt.” Meyer said.

Then came the obvious follow: “Why not?” (Just kidding.)

“Was it just a good play by the defender?” someone asked.

“I couldn’t tell,” Meyer said. “I’ll tell you next week when we watch it.”

And that was the extent of the questioning Meyer faced on the subject.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence also was asked about the decision to go for a hard seven in lieu of taking an easy three.

“Were you urging Urban to go for it on fourth down in the first half?” Lawrence was asked.

“No, that was the call,” Lawrence said. “We were close to making that play. We all felt good with it, and it was something we had run all week. We were all on the same page.”

That’s fine, but it can be argued they were all on the wrong page. Really, how good could they feel about a quarterback run performed in red-jersey conditions against a scout-team defense?

Even so, Meyer should have taken the three. They still may have lost, but consider the difference between 14-0 and 17-0 from Cincinnati’s perspective. Down by 14, an opening drive touchdown by the Bengals cuts the margin in half, just like that. Down by 17, it’s a different feeling, a different vibe. Maybe the Bengals try to do too much, to press too hard, knowing that they have only 30 minutes to close a three-score gap.

In his defense, Meyer doesn’t have a lot of experience with those kinds of issues. His teams were good enough to build and hold leads, good enough to turn a play that looked good in practice into a fourth-and-short touchdown against typically overmatched opponents.

At this level, where points are much harder to come by, you take them. Especially when those points automatically convert a two-score game into a three-score game with only two quarters left in the game.

23 responses to “Jaguars should have taken the field goal at the end of the first half

  1. It’s not as clear cut as you make it seem. You had to believe the Bengals offense was going to wake up at some point, and no reason to believe 17 points would win that game. Also, yes 3 scores is 3 scores, but 3 touchdowns are statistically harder to get than 2 tds and a field goal. The Bengals needing that 3rd TD to tie could theoretically force them into some very tough 4th down decisions in the second half.

  2. Come on. They were on the 1 yard line. It wasn’t a terrible decision to go for it. They just didn’t punch it in. It happens.

  3. Well fool me seven times but on the eighth time even the dumbest defense might just catch on to a qb sneak

  4. So you’re saying if Jax gets 3 there instead, and kickoff with a minute left, Cin would not have maybe gotten the FG back before the end of the half?

  5. Well….you’re a team that hasn’t won a game in 15 months with a rooking QB (albeit a good one), you’re on the road and you have a chip shot FG which would put you up 3 scores in a half that you completely dominated. It’d be one thing if you were KC or the Rams who would be likely to score more points and you can roll the dice to try to crush the Bengals going into halftime; but the Jags aren’t those teams and honestly don’t have the track record to take that kind of chance. Being up 3 scores, for the Jags coming from where they’ve been, would have been huge and would have pressured the Bengals; instead, it became the turning point in the game, energized the Bengals (who were getting the second-half kickoff) and they came out like a different team, confident that they’d win. It’s just a huge mistake by Meyer.

  6. Wrong, if you cant punch it in and have confidence in your offense then you have nothing. Besides thats not why they lost the game, it was close. East to QB it now after the game.

  7. At Utah, Florida and OSU Meyer typically as good or better talent than his opponent. Many times Meyer’s team had a huge lead or could expect a huge lead. In the NFL its much more evened out. And you knew Burrow was going to show up. It’s not college.

  8. I’m not a fan of teams ever leaving points on the board. Going for that 4th & goal with less than a yard would be hard to pass up, though. It’s easy to second guess, of course.

    To me, an 0-3 team should never pass up points.

    But then again, what if they missed the FG?

  9. Offenses going for it on 4th down has been more of a constant than an anomaly in today’s NFL. Whether deep in one’s own territory, (even by Belichick) or on the goal line. They just didn’t make it. To question or make a point of the going for it, well… seems pointless. Pun intended. No controversy here, other than a failed execution of a play.

  10. Meyer is realizing quickly that NFL caliber defenses aren’t College ones. He makes that TD in College 90%+ of the time. Welcome to the big leagues Urban!

  11. “In his defense…” since when does an NFL coach get a pass for inexperience? It’s his job description to make the right call. And Urban Meyer did not make the right call. If his team won, maybe it doesn’t matter. But if you lose, it does. NFL facts.

  12. No, they should have gone for it. If you can’t get half a yard, you don’t deserve to win, and that’s exactly what happened. Not to mention that they don’t have anything to lose right now as the underdog story. That play call though was mind boggling. Line up Lawrence in shotgun and sneak for it. Sounds like something an OC who lost a Super Bowl at the goal line would call.

  13. I think you are off on this one Mike. I think virtually every team in the NFL would go for the TD under these circumstances and 90% of the time they would succeed. Now what I didn’t like was the play call. Too slow to develop.

  14. This may be the first united front comment section I’ve ever seen. Like, everyone is on the same side of this debate.

  15. Well, according to Meyer the ball was supposed to go to the running back. If they execute the play the way it was designed they probably get the TD. The offense just didn’t execute.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.