Urban Meyer’s adjustment from college football to pro football includes adjusting to an intermission that’s 40 percent shorter.
After trailing at halftime in the first two games of the season, the Jaguars took leads of 13-7 and 14-0 into the locker room after the first two quarters of the last two games. And as Jacksonville coach Urban Meyer tries to figure out what went wrong on Thursday night in Cincinnati, he’s looking at everything — including what does or doesn’t go on at halftime.
“I’m looking at it all,” Meyer told reporters on Friday. “I would imagine it’s not conditioning but I’m looking at the halftime adjustments. It seems like the first part of the second half is when we’ve had a couple issues. I remember that against Arizona and then as well as the one last night, they went right down the field on us. So, we’re looking at that, but I don’t believe it’s conditioning. I’m looking at the second half adjustments and what are we doing as opposed to [the other team]. I know Cincinnati came out and tried to establish the run early in the game and we played them very well. I talked to Joe Burrow after the game a little bit. Then [in] the second half, he wanted to empty it out and identify matchup issues, and that’s what they did. Their second half adjustment was better than ours.”
Some have tried to shout down the notion that halftime adjustments can become a factor in a game because Peyton Manning recently said during his Monday night companion broadcast that not much can be done during halftime of an NFL game. But, obviously, something can be done; it’s 12 minutes, not 12 seconds. If one team makes the most of that time and the other just dog paddles until the start of the third quarter, that can make a difference.
On Thursday night, for example, Bengals coach Zac Taylor took advantage of the opportunity to send a message to his team, which had narrowly avoided falling into a 21-point hole, that the 14-point deficit was not insurmountable.
“The message was that they beat us in all three phases,” Taylor told reporters after the game. “We had not played great football. They genuinely beat us in all three phases. I don’t know if it was their best shot, but it sure felt like it and we were not playing good football. We had a whole second half to play, so there was no reason to panic and nobody did. Everybody was calm and collected. They knew they were going to get the ball to start the half, and we’re usually pretty efficient in that. They just trusted that we were going to come together.”
It doesn’t take long for that message to be sent. The coach needs to send it, and the coach needs to grab his quarterback and offensive coordinator and finalize plans for the opening drive of the second half, which in this case allowed the Bengals to cut the margin in half.
What was Meyer doing with eight fewer minutes than he had between halves at Utah, Florida, and Ohio State? At this point, we don’t know. Whatever it was, he realizes he needs to consider whether he should be doing more with less time, in order to keep a 14-point lead from becoming a three-point loss.