JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first play from scrimmage in the second half Sunday, it would have been easy for the New Orleans Saints to let the game get away from them.
They gave up a 41-yard run up the gut to Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars’ explosive running back, a burst which put their backs to the wall even though they held a 17-10 lead at that point.
But the Saints turned it around on the next three plays, dropping running back Deji Karim for a 2-yard loss, forcing a Blaine Gabbert incompletion and then getting an interception off Gabbert to end the threat and quiet the suddenly excited crowd of 62,471 in EverBank Field.
From there, the offense added two more field goals and the defense pitched a shutout, holding the Jaguars to 64 total yards on Jacksonville’s final 27 snaps in a 23-10 victory.
In addition to limiting the Jaguars to 105 total yards in the second half, the Saints defense got Jacksonville off the field in a timely fashion.
The Jaguars were 1 of 7 on third-down conversions, and they failed on all three of their fourth-down attempts after halftime.
The Saints also got an interception by second-year cornerback Patrick Robinson, and they had a sack of Gabbert, who was 4 of 18 for 31 yards in the second half, after getting him twice in the first half.
While the Saints offense sputtered a little in the first half, settling for three John Kasay field goals after getting in the Jaguars’ red zone each time, the defense picked them up in the second half and made the lead feel more comfortable than it looked.
“It was just a weird game in that way,” Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said. “I felt like we were in control defensively and offensively. We felt like our offense was moving the ball a lot, but we looked up at the score, and they were just one or two big plays away from the game being totally turned around on us.
“There are lots of things we could have done better, but we did enough together in all three phases of the game to keep that game where it was — and the way we wanted it to go.”
Robinson played a key role in it as he quelled a Jaguars’ drive that could have tied the game when he stepped in front of wide receiver Jason Hill for an interception that the Saints turned into a field goal and 17-10 lead in the first half.
“We showed him man (coverage) and then played Cover 2,” Robinson said. “He threw it right to me, right to me.
“Definitely, we needed that kind of performance in the second half. That was something we worked on all week, and it was something we tried to do today. For the most part, we did it.”
Of course, the Jaguars are one of the most offensively challenged teams in the league. They came into the game with two touchdowns in three games and were 31st in scoring with 9.7 points per game.
“We knew it was going to be that type of game in the second half,” said defensive end Will Smith, who had two of the Saints’ three sacks.
“Their defense is pretty solid, and we thought they would give our offense some problems. But we felt if our offense could score some points early and gave us a lead, it would be tough for them to come back.”
And the defense certainly took advantage of it after the offense held the ball for more than 37 minutes.
“We made some key third- and fourth-down stops,” Saints strong safety Roman Harper said. “We just had to stick with it. The offense controlled the clock and at the end of the day we stuck together and won it.
“Nobody batted an eye in the second half; we just stuck with our plan.
“It was one of those things where you continue to fight and stick together.”