Jaguars' red-zone issues get a little better against woeful Bengals

CINCINNATI -- It took a while, but the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense finally get into the end zone on Sunday. In fact, it took three weeks.

The Jaguars hadn’t scored a touchdown since the third quarter of a Week 5 loss to Carolina. That was also the last time the Jaguars scored one in the red zone. Until Gardner Minshew connected with Keelan Cole on a 2-yard pass with 12:41 to play in the Jaguars’ 27-17 victory over Cincinnati, the Jaguars had failed to score a TD on six consecutive trips in the red zone.

They were 0-for-2 in a loss to New Orleans (they kicked two field goals) and 0-for-their-first-four-trips on Sunday (three field goals and turnover on downs). A big reason for the lack of success Sunday? A reluctance to rely on the run game. Gardner Minshew went 2-for-8 for 14 yards and the one TD on the first four red zone trips.

The Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette to score touchdowns, especially from short yardage, and he was very good at that as a rookie. However, he had just three carries for six yards on two red zone trips against the Saints last week and had 16 carries for 32 yards and one TD in for the season entering Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

One of the reasons the Jaguars had so much success two years ago was their offense’s performance in the red zone: The ranked second in TD percentage (64 percent). This year? They ranked 29th (38.5 percent) entering Sunday’s game.

Increasing their efficiency in the red zone has to be a priority over the next several weeks.

QB Breakdown: Minshew looked tentative in the pocket and hesitant to make throws at times for the second week in a row. He was much more decisive and efficient when he first got into the lineup but defenses are doing a better job of confusing him before the snap and causing him to second-guess what he’s seeing. He had times when he had receivers open against the Bengals but it appeared he didn’t trust what he was seeing or didn’t see them. Part of his indecisiveness might be related to protection issues and the Jaguars did call some rollouts to get him on the edge to simplify some of those decisions. Minshew did make some good throws, including one late in the first half that set up a field goal and the touchdown to Cole, but he’s not as efficient.

Troubling trend: The Jaguars had three weakside linebackers get hurt against the Bengals, and that’s a huge problem for a defense that didn’t have much depth at linebacker anyway. Najee Goode left the game in the first half with a foot injury and rookie Quincy Williams went out in the second with a hamstring injury. Williams had gotten benched during the loss to Carolina (the Jaguars gave up 285 yards rushing) and Goode had played very well the last two weeks and was going to hold onto the starting job for the foreseeable future. D.J. Alexander, who is mainly a special teams player, replaced Williams, but he suffered a foot injury late in the fourth quarter and didn’t return. Luckily, Williams was able to come back into the game. Still, it’s an issue to monitor for next week’s game against the New York Jets and running back Le'Veon Bell.

Pivotal play: Linebacker Myles Jack notched his first interception since the 2018 season opener to stop what could have been a game-tying touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter. Jack jumped the route on Andy Dalton’s pass to receiver Tyler Boyd at the Jacksonville 10-yard line. It was just the third turnover the Jaguars defense has forced this season (cornerback D.J. Hayden forced a fumble earlier in the game). The Jaguars forced two more turnovers after that, including Yannick Ngakoue’s pick-six that was set up by a pressure by Taven Bryan.