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The struggles continue

Posted Nov 27, 2011

Jaguars offense manages six points in 20-13 loss to AFC South-leading Houston.

To Maurice Jones-Drew, this was no time for complex analysis.

The Jaguars lost to the Houston Texans, 20-13, Sunday afternoon and although the loss officially ended the Jaguars’ already unrealistic AFC South hopes, that issue wasn’t what was on the Pro Bowl running back’s mind in the aftermath at EverBank Field.

Here’s what was:

The problem around the Jaguars has been clear all season, and was clear again Sunday, with too much time remaining in the season to stop looking for a solution.

“We have to find a way,” Jones-Drew said after the Jaguars’ offense struggled through yet another close loss, producing 255 yards, no touchdowns and 14 first downs. “Otherwise, it’s going to be a real long next five weeks. We have to find a way to make plays.

“We have to start making them right now.”

The Jaguars’ loss dropped them to 3-8, their worst record after 11 games since 2003, Jack Del Rio’s first season as head coach.

With the loss, the Jaguars were officially eliminated from the AFC South race.

“Guys in that locker room, players and coaches have shown the kind of grit and fight that we saw throughout the ballgame,” Del Rio said. “We’re just not able to generate enough offensively to put ourselves in a position to win the game.

“We are working hard at it. We are just not making enough plays.”

Afterward, players echoed what they said throughout the past week – that with the playoffs no longer a factor, pride is now the issue.

“We’re in an awful situation,” Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “There’s no hiding that. But we still have a job to do. It’s still our responsibility to come out, work hard every week and compete as hard as we can on Sunday. We have to still be able to do that regardless of our situation.”

As has been the case much of the season, the prevailing theme Sunday was the struggles of the Jaguars’ offense, particularly the passing offense.

Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback, completed 13 of 29 passes for 136 yards and no touchdowns, and was intercepted once. Midway through the fourth quarter, he was pulled from the game in favor of veteran backup Luke McCown.

McCown completed 7 of 11 passes for 62 yards, and Del Rio was asked afterward if McCown would be the quarterback when the Jaguars play host to San Diego on Monday, December 5, at EverBank.

“No, he showed me something that as a veteran he is preparing like he is a guy that is one play away,” Del Rio said. “When he was called on, he came in there and gave us a spark.”

Del Rio was asked who will start against San Diego.

“Blaine is our starting quarterback until I tell you otherwise.”

The Jaguars’ third-ranked defense held the Texans -- playing with third-team quarterback T.J. Yates throughout the second half after a collarbone injury to backup Matt Leinart – to nine first downs. Playing without five starters – linebacker Clint Session, defensive end Matt Roth, cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton – the Jaguars limited the Texans to 88 rushing yards and 215 total yards.

As a result, the Jaguars trailed just 20-10 when McCown entered the game with 7:03 remaining.

The Jaguars immediately turned in an eight-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 35-yard field goal by Josh Scobee, whose 21-yard field goal with 10:41 remaining in the first half gave the Jaguars a 10-7 lead. The Jaguars had taken a 7-0 lead 1:22 into the game when cornerback Ashton Youboty returned a fumble 38 yards for a touchdown.

A 1-yard run by Arian Foster tied it at 7-7, and Leinart’s 20-yard pass to tight end Joel Dreessen 6:24 before halftime made it 14-10, Houston. With Leinart out, the Texans managed just two second-half field goals of 53 and 33 yards by Neil Rackers, giving the Jaguars a chance at the end.

The Jaguars’ defense, as it did throughout the second half, held the Texans on the drive after Scobee’s 35-yarder pulled them to within seven, and after a Houston punt, Jacksonville had a final chance to tie or win the game.

But as has happened too often this season, a late opportunity turned into frustration.

After McCown passed five yards to wide receiver Mike Thomas and 21 yards to Jarett Dillard, a quick pass to Deji Karim lost four yards. On second down, Texans linebacker Conner Barwin sacked McCown, one of a franchise-record for sacks for Barwin and one of seven overall for Houston.

McCown threw 25 yards to tight end Marcedes Lewis, but on 4th-and-2, he threw slightly high to Thomas, who appeared to get two hands on the ball, but the pass was broken up by cornerback Brice McCain.

McCown was asked if he expected the Jaguars to call time out before the final play. He said he did not, and said he liked the play. Jones-Drew said the Jaguars knew the Texans liked to play blitz up front and defend man-to-man behind it, and when they got that look, they had the proper play called.

“I felt like we could manage that one yard without having to do that,’ McCown said. “We had a call, a good call. They gave us a crunch-time zero blitz and we had a good call for it. We just didn’t execute.”

Jones-Drew said the story of the game wasn’t the final play. Rather, he said it remained what has plagued the team throughout the season – an offense that has yet to score 20 points in a game and that is averaging just over 12.5 points a game.

“There are no excuses,” said Jones-Drew, who rushed for 99 yards on 18 carries and caught four passes for 67 yards. “We aren’t playing well. That’s it. Teams aren’t beating us. They aren’t beating us because they are outscoring us. They are beating us because we can’t score points on offense. To score six points is ridiculous – complete nonsense. We have to figure out a way to score more points.

“We’re moving the ball up and down the field. We just need to figure out a way to put it in.”

Also for the Jaguars Sunday:

*The Texans sacked Jaguars quarterbacks seven times. Asked if it was the fault of the offensive line or the quarterbacks holding the ball too long, Del Rio said, “I would suspect there’s a little bit of both in there.” Texans linebacker Conner Barwin set a franchise record with four sacks.

*Posluszny said the defense took pride in its performance. The Texans had entered the game second in the NFL in rushing at 158.1 yards per game. “That was great for us, especially the way our line played,” Posluszny said. “(Defensive tackle) C.J. Mosley did a great job. We were put in a tough spot, missing a lot of starters, but we have guys who can come in and play at a high level.”

*Lewis continued to have a difficult season. A Pro Bowl selection last season, Lewis has struggled this season with dropped passes and on Sunday, he dropped what would have been a 3-yard touchdown pass when he was wide open in the end zone. Del Rio spoke to Lewis immediately after the play. Said Del Rio: “I told him, ‘There is a lot of football left to be played. You’ve got to find a way to bounce back. That was a horrible miss – everybody knows it. You know it and I know it. You can’t hide from it and you can’t go back and change it. So, do everything you can to get yourself out of a funk. Fight your butt off for the rest of the ballgame.’’’ Lewis finished with four receptions for 47 yards.

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