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.