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Pass to tight end in corner of end zone has been one of Jaguars’ go-to goal-line plays

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Updated: November 8, 2012 11:50AM

Finding the 5-foot-7 bowling ball that is
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew can be a trying task for linebackers.

‘‘Sometimes, as a taller guy, I have to stand up to see where those guys are, but he’s a good
running back,’’ Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. ‘‘He’s thick, runs hard. So we’ve got to get a lot of guys on him, run to the football [and] tackle him. Then we should be OK.’’

The Bears have made it clear their goal is to force the Jaguars to pass by making Jones-Drew a non-factor.

‘‘Jones-Drew is a dominant back,’’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. ‘‘We feel like if we can get in there and slow the running game down, then we can force them into throwing the ball, which we don’t believe they want to do.’’

The Bears probably believe that because it’ll be on second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert to do something against them at that point. Even though he has thrown five touchdown passes and only one interception, Gabbert has completed only 55.8 percent of his passes for 654 yards in four games.

If there is one positive for Gabbert, it’s that he has done well on first down. A look at game film indicates that all five of his touchdown passes have come on first-down plays. Two of them have come on play-action plays from the same run-heavy goal-line formation with 6-6 tight end Marcedes Lewis as the targeted receiver.

Essentially, the Jaguars line up in an I-formation with an extra down lineman as an eligible receiver and an extra tight end in the backfield. Gabbert fakes to Jones-Drew, while Lewis, who starts on the line in a three-point stance, takes off to the corner and another receiver heads to the flat. It’s a standard goal-line play, but it has been effective for Gabbert and the Jaguars’ lackluster offense, which ranks last in the league.

Lewis caught a two-yard touchdown pass last Sunday against the Bengals on the play
diagrammed above. He also had a one-yard score in Week 1 against the Vikings, where he lined up in the same spot but headed to the opposite corner. Lewis had clean releases on both plays, and his routes weren’t hindered. The Bears can’t let that happen if they’re in the same position Sunday.

With Jones-Drew, a fullback and a tight end in the backfield, it’s easy for linebackers and
defensive backs to key on the run in goal-line
situations and miss receivers running past them. As Urlacher said, it’s also hard to know whether Jones-Drew has the ball in the first place.

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