As NFL.com's Nick Shook notes, in terms of yards per carry, Leonard Fournette
is having his best season as a pro.
You wouldn't have known it if you tuned into Sunday's game between the Jaguars and Colts.
Fournette rushed just eight times for 23 yards in a 33-13 loss to Indianapolis, his lowest single-game total of his career. Jacksonville unsurprisingly lost its way offensively in the second half, going from a 10-7 deficit to a 24-7 hole that was clearly insurmountable, despite there still being a quarter left to play.
In fact, Fournette gained all of his yards on his first five carries, which came in the first half. His output in the third and fourth quarters was -1 rushing yards on just three carries, in a game that was 10-7 at the break. Sure, Indianapolis took a 17-7 lead early in the third, but Jacksonville was notably eager to ditch the run, it seemed.
"That's where I wish I would have been like, 'Hey, let's stick with the plan; it's still two scores,'" head coach Doug Marrone said Monday. "That was my mistake. That was a big mistake by me. ... I thought we needed to score points in a quicker fashion. That's what led to the increased pass attempts. That's on me as a head coach.
"We need to be more balanced moving forward. Believe me, I know more than anyone that a strong rushing attack will open things up in the pass game. I know it works hand in hand. I know we're frustrated. I know Leonard's frustrated. ... The line. He wants to make plays and help us win the game. That was the mindset. I was wrong and I made a mistake."
The lack of really any rushing attempts clearly handcuffed Jacksonville's offense, which resorted to Nick Foles
dropping, surveying and almost always forcing a pass to D.J. Chark
(eight catches on 15 targets) while frequently under duress. It didn't just limit the Jaguars -- it all but stopped them.
Case in point: Down 24-7 late in the third, the Jaguars threw three straight passes and again were forced to punt. Colts return team member Bobby Okereke muffed the punt off an unexpected bounce, where it was recovered by the Jaguars at Indianapolis' 29 with 0:07 left in the quarter.
Jacksonville again threw it three straight times, gaining one yard and missing a 48-yard field goal attempt by Josh Lambo
"I guess the only way I can explain it is that obviously that was a challenge for us going in," Marrone said of running the ball against the Colts' ninth-ranked rush defense
. "And I thought when we first started, and we had a 10-yard run, a 4-yard run, a 6-yard run, I was feeling good. Then Nick got hot early. He was 6 of 7 and we went down and we scored. And then I think like I said before, there was still a tight game and when they started running the football, I made a mistake and got away from the plan. I think that it's something that we want to be able to do and I think that was my mistake."
Oddly enough, Jacksonville ranks 13th in the NFL in rushing with 119.5 yards per game. But in the Jaguars' last two games -- both blowout losses to divisional opponents -- they've gained just 101 combined rushing yards.
"At 4-6, it's starting to get late for the Jaguars, but they still have a chance to right the ship," Shook summed up. "It would behoove them to start by attacking opponents on the ground."
Worth noting, as ESPN's Al Zeidenfeld did this week, the prevailing perception is that Fournette is a "pound it into the line, three yards and a cloud of dust" running back isn't accurate.
Per Zeidenfeld, "The reality this season is that he's been an extremely versatile, pass-catching and big-play back, giving him a very realistic floor/ceiling combination that's been held down only by his lack of TD production, despite tremendous usage in the red zone."
Fournette has had at least five catches over the past three games and as Zeidenfeld suggests, he matches up well with the Titans, who have allowed the fourth-most receptions (6.3 per game) to opposing running backs. Fournette also leads the league with four carries of 45-plus yards.
"Combined with the passing-game usage and TD equity," Zeidenfeld wrote, "there's very real upside here."