NFL Week 3: Jaguars Cannot Contain Drew Brees; New Orleans Saints Win 23-10

First Half
The Jacksonville Jaguars received to start the game, and quickly drove to the New Orleans Saints' 38 yard line, but the drive stalled just outside of field goal range. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert could not complete the fourth down attempt, and the New Orleans Saints quickly changed the short field into 7 points, scoring on fullback Jed Collins's 1 yard touchdown run.

On the Jaguars' second offensive drive, Blaine Gabbert, throwing once again in the paint of his own end zone -- eerily similar to Week 2, when he got sacked for an early safety -- connected with receiver Mike Thomas, who gashed through the Saints defense for a 47 yard reception. Unfortunately, the drive stalled after a holding penalty on Thomas during a designed quarterback keeper play, and then Gabbert could not connect with Marcedes Lewis on the 3rd and 13.

Punter Matt Turk then crammed the Saints deep into their own red zone. Despite starting on their own 4 yard line, the Saints quickly pushed down the field, and by the start of the second quarter, Drew Brees had connected with wide open tight end Jimmy Graham for a 1 yard touchdown, giving the Saints a 14-0 lead.

The Jaguars responded with an impressive 80 yard drive, their second red zone possession of the season, and an outstanding 14 yard touchdown catch from Zach Miller in tight coverage. The touchdown pass came after a quick play action; Gabbert half-heartedly feigned a hand off to Maurice Jones-Drew, then lasered the ball to Miller jumping into the end zone.

The Jaguars defense, one of the good surprises in the early part of the season, began to put decent pressure on the Saints offense, just enough to keep Drew Brees and the Saints running back trio -- Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Mark Ingram -- from scoring late in the second quarter. And as the Saints tried to execute a 2:00-minute drive, linebacker Daryl Smith snuck in front of a Brees pass and intercepted the ball in Jaguars' territory.

The offense -- once again -- could not push into the end zone, making way for a short Josh Scobee field goal and a 14-10 deficit.

Second Half
An ill-advised Gabbert throw on the Jags first drive of the second half led to another prolonged Saints drive, but the Jags defense got thick near the end zone, holding the Saints to a field goal and a 20-10 lead with 4:16 left in the 3rd quarter.

Gabbert did not have a great game and could have a much worse game had the Saints defensive backs not dropped or missed several near-interceptions. Moreover, Gabbert overthrew a number of his passes, some of which proved fortuitous as Gabbert had attempted to throw into double and triple coverage, but tossed the ball 5 or 10 yards too far. And, with a crucial chance to score in the 4th quarter, Gabbert overthrew a well-covered Mercedes Lewis on 4th and 2 and then could not connect with his receivers on two successive fourth down tries in the Jags final drives.

Little praise, however, can go to the Jags offensive line, which at times appeared to be imitating a cheese grader as defenders poured into the Jacksonville backfield. The Jags defense registered an impressive 3 sacks and 4 quarterback hits on Drew Brees, but Gabbert certainly had the rougher time despite also taking 3 sack and another 6 hits.

Earlier in the week, we forecast a 31-14 Saints victory, so the improved Jags defense once again upset expectations and made a game out of what many expected would be a blowout.

Notes and Statistics:

  • The Jaguars rushed for 104 yards, average over 6 yards per carry, but much of that came on the merit of a 41 yard run from Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jags may have been able to run well on the Saints, but the early deficit resulted in the Jags attempting 42 passes and a loss in the time of possession battle, 23 minutes to 37 minutes.
  • Mike Thomas had a solid game, catching 5 passes for 73 yards.
  • Known more for their passing attack, the Saints may have surprised the Jags with their three-headed running back assault, rushing for a combined 177 yards.

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