Had Dede Westbrook returned the punt for a touchdown, he would have kicked the extra point to tie the game. But when that didn’t happen, Marrone decided he was going to go for the win if his offense, which had sputtered for much of the game, somehow put it together and got into the end zone.
Even though the offense did come through, the play didn’t work — officials ruled that Leonard Fournette was stopped short of the goal line — and the Jaguars lost by a point to fall to 0-2, there was full support of Marrone’s decision in the locker room.
And a general belief that the call wasn’t correct, either.
“That’s the team we want to be,” said receiver DJ Chark, who caught the 4-yard touchdown pass from Gardner Minshew to pull the Jaguars within 13-12 with 30 seconds remaining. “We don’t want to play it safe. We want to go get the win. Even after the call and the way it turned out, I still believe, like Myles [Jack] said, I believe that was a [two-point conversion].
“I’m going to ride for my team, my coaches and Leonard, and I think that we got that.”
Defensive end Calais Campbell was so sure Fournette crossed the goal line that he had already begun mentally preparing to go back onto the field to stop the Texans a final time. Depending on the replay angle, it looked like Fournette might have broken the plane of the goal line with the tip of the football.
“Honestly, from the angles we saw, we were celebrating on the field,” Campbell said. “We thought that was two points. Obviously, I know it has to be definitive. You put it in the referees’ hands and it could go either way.”
Said Fournette: “I thought I got in when I reached the ball, but apparently they thought otherWISe.”
The players loved the aggressiveness and appreciated the trust that Marrone showed in making the decision to go for the win when the drive started on their own 32. As for running Fournette, that play call was determined by the look the Texans defense gave the Jaguars before the ball was snapped.
Even so, the Jaguars had considerable trouble running the football against the Texans. Fournette averaged just 3.1 yards on 15 carries — and that included a 14-yard run, so he averaged 2.4 yards per carry on his other 14 carries — but the offensive line might deserve the bulk of the blame.
Per NFL NextGen Stats, Fournette averaged 0.4 yards per carry before the first defender closed to within 1-yard of him and he faced an average of 6.9 defenders in the box on each of his carries. That means he essentially was pretty much getting contacted as soon as he reached the line of scrimmage.
That’s what happened on the two-point try. Texans nose tackle D.J. Reader, linebacker Brennan Scarlett, defensive end Angelo Blackson and linebacker Zach Cunningham got a good push against the center of the Jaguars’ offensive line, clogged up the middle and stopped Fournette. Fournette tried to slide off to his right and push toward the end zone, but safety Justin Reid stopped him on the goal line — officially, anyway.
“Felt really good about the call,” Minshew said. “Had the right look. Leonard was close. I thought he got it. That’s how it goes sometimes. I bet 10 times out of 10 for him right there to get in there.”