Jacksonville's Jaguars entered this week's game against traditional rivals Tennessee with extra scrutiny. Fans and analysts alike focused with relentless ardor on whether the Jags would be able to focus and win the "game within the game." We can now say that the answer is: almost.
It is often said that football is a game of inches—or, more appropriately, yards. The field position battle on Sunday depended, as always, on two opposing forces: The mighty feet of Tennessee punter Johnny Townsend, and Jacksonville punter Logan Cooke. In this contest, I'm afraid, Tennessee came out ahead—barely. Townsend was responsible for four punts on the day averaging 42.5 yards each, and Cooke got off two punts averaging 40 yards each. The 2.5-yard edge that Townsend secured for the Titans offense, multiplied by four, adds up to a full 10 yards of field position advantage accruing to the Titans over the course of the game. That margin ultimately gave Tennessee what it needed to score 18 more points than the Jaguars, resulting in a hard-fought but ultimately disappointing loss for Jacksonville. Coach Irvin Mayer and his special teams staff will now be responsible for remedying the errors with long hours in the film room and round after round of strategic adjustment.
If I may step outside of analytics and add a small personal message here, to all of the Jaguars Junction fans who emailed me this week, frantically demanding an installment of this column: Do not direct your scorn at Logan Cooke. Harsh criticism rarely improves performance. Furthermore, punt distance is not simply the product of the competitive will of the punter—it is also affected by factors outside his control like offensive line positioning, weather conditions, and so forth.
“Jaguars Junction” is an independent source of football analysis unaffiliated with any professional sports franchise.