JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Coming back from a two-score deficit in the NFL is never an easy task.
However, if you can get past the hurdles and secure a comeback win, it can do wonders for your team in the short-term and long-term.
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley agonized through the first half of a pitiful performance of Sunday's 17-16 win over the Chicago Bears. The typically mild-mannered play-caller returned to the locker room at halftime and verbally challenged his players, displaying the anxiety of another potential loss looming.
The step outside of his comfort zone worked. The Jaguars played like a whole new team in the second half.
Jacksonville's offense scored all 17 of the team's points in the fourth quarter. The defense shutdown the Bears offense on third downs and that made the difference on the scoreboard. It allowed the offense to make a stand late in the game.
“Resiliency, urgency, all of the factors that come into each game that you play showed up in that game," Bradley said.
"We started off, I felt, really fast on offense. Probably one of the best drives of the year to go down there. We just didn’t finish. We take a look at that. Then we struggled a little bit offensively, came back in the third, fourth quarter. Changed tempo a little bit, I think that was good for us. Ended up coming through offensively. Defensively, I thought we played pretty well."
Bradley's squad dealt with issues on both sides of the ball early on but he still stuck to his guns. He didn't quit on the run game, he didn't bench his pass rushers and he didn't make an example of his quarterback.
The run game on offense has suffocated the play-calling possibilities for the Jaguars this season. The running attack has offered few big plays and has lacked consistency throughout the first five games.
“I can’t argue with the run game," Bradley said.
"It’s not coming along. Sometimes, you see it and some of the same things are popping up. It all comes back to, why aren’t we playing fast? It doesn’t look to me that, when we’re out there, the offensive line, tight ends and everybody, we’re executing. It comes down to execution, technique, but there’s just not a certain speed or urgency in our play."
Despite the offensive struggles of the first half, Bradley took positive notes on Blake Bortles. His fumble was an example of his sloppy play, but his interception was not because of a bad decision.
“I thought he played pretty well," Bradley said.
"When you see him, especially in that situation where it was no huddle I thought he played pretty well in that area. The fumble, he has to take care of the ball in that situation. Overall play, I know there were some drops that took place. I don’t look at his performance and go, ‘Boy he is really struggling or he is really frustrated.’ I don’t see that. I thought we were down in the game and he brought us back as the leader of the offense. We only had limited possessions and we scored on those three possessions. Pretty good.”
On defense, Bradley said the ability to adapt in the second half was essential in stopping the Bears offense. There were still some bonehead mistakes, but the unit improved in coverage and took away Chicago's best weapon, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
“In the first half, we are playing tighter coverage throughout the game," Bradley said.
"I think in those times, the ability, we’re making some plays. We got some pressure to create some errant throws. It’s a combination. I look back at the two-minute situation right before the half where they go to the logo area. They were moving, we were down 10-0. We brought pressure and I think there were three incompletions in a row. That was a big series for us on defense. I think the ability to send some pressure and tight coverage has helped us.”
Rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey was the poster boy for the resiliency that Bradley saw in his team. Ramsey was assigned to cover Jeffery and his halftime adjustments factored heavily in taming the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
“I think in the second half, he told me, he felt some of the talk at halftime was directed at him," Bradley said.
"It wasn’t. I didn’t mean for him to take it personal, but he said you know what, he continues to challenge himself. He played that way in the first half. He’s a very talented receiver and I go back to what we’re asking Jalen to do in that game. He’s learning. It’s his fifth game in the NFL. He’ll continue to learn. Just like he did from the first half to the second half. Hopefully he takes it into the next game.”
The Jaguars (2-3) will host the Oakland Raiers (4-2) on Sunday. The team hopes to show its urgency early in the game, so it doesn't have to rely on its resiliency to pull off a win.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.