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View from the O-Zone: Opportunity missed … again

Posted Oct 15, 2017

Oehser: Special teams and missed opportunities cost the Jaguars a chance at a memorable day at Everbank Field Sunday. That’s too bad, but it shouldn’t define the Jaguars’ season

JACKSONVILLE – This was a chance to check a lot of boxes.

Consider that chance missed – and for a team and a home crowd hoping for something different, that’s too bad.

The Jaguars lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 27-17, in front of 56,232 at EverBank Field Sunday, but the score doesn’t tell the whole story or define the feeling that dominated the shores of the St. John’s River Sunday.

The story was hope, and optimism, and even giddiness.

The day had all of it early. Hope and optimism remain in what is still a young season, but giddiness went away Sunday in a slew of poor special teams play and missed opportunities that left the Jaguars talking of what needs to happen to get this thing right.

“It’s a matter of time,” defensive end and veteran leader Calais Campbell said. “We have the talent. We have all the pieces. Right now, it’s about momentum. We have to find out how great players get momentum on their side and use that to win ball games.”

Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone struck a similar tone, keeping the even keel he has preached since taking the job last December.

“I still like this team,” Marrone said. “I know the direction that we want to go, which is important. I told the players that. We lost this game as a team … but at the end of the day, it’s the sixth game of the season. There’s ten games left. We’ve got to go on the road next week.  Then we have the bye.

“There’s a lot of football left. You’ve just got to stick it out. It’s in your craw, you can’t stand it.  It’s at home, and you don’t want to do that at home. We’ve got to take accountability for it, starting with me, and we’ve got to fix it and go.”

Such was the mood in the home locker room early Sunday evening.

Not despair. No way. There’s plenty of hope around this team – and not just because it very much remains in first place in the AFC South through six games.

No, the feeling was more frustration – and of a feeling that as good as things have gone at times in this still-young season, things could have gone much better.

This was a team that had a couple of important boxes to check Sunday, and those boxes were obvious enough that players discussed them openly all week.

Box No. 1? Win at the ‘Bank.

Box No. 2? Win back-to-back games.

Both storylines seemed like the same storyline this week because it all seemed to funnel into this idea that the fans of Jacksonville just wanted to see up close – with their own eyes – this team that had been so dominant in three different venues away from home.

The fans wanted to feel it Sunday.  They wanted to be part of it. They wanted to share it.

As for the Jaguars, they also wanted to do what Marrone has talked about on several occasions, which is to say they wanted to earn the right for the ‘Bank to be a home-field advantage.

They didn’t do that Sunday. What happened, exactly? Simple, really.

The Jaguars played the same game they have played much of the season. They ran well early, and they played good defense the entire game. For much of the game, the defense was better than good and played well enough to win.

But this team can’t put itself in bad situations and hope to win. In a Week 2 loss to Tennessee, penalties put the offense in bad situations. In a Week 4 loss at the New York Jets, the defense itself in a bad situation by failing to touchdown running back Bilal Powell and a valuable touchdown was given away.

On Sunday against the Rams?

Well, on Sunday the Jaguars’ special teams gave up two touchdowns. And a 16-yard punt by punter Brad Nortman led to another 56-yard field goal. Kicker Jason Myers missed twice from 54 yards. That’s 17 points allowed by the special teams and another six points not scored by them.

This team is about winning with a dominant defense, solid running game. It’s also about winning with grit and guts. Points given away and points not scored doesn’t fit that equation.

“I don’t think it’s very difficult to see what happened out there today,” Marrone said.

No, it’s not. And in a very real sense, this Jaguars team is easy to figure. When it plays to its formula – good defense, running well, few mistakes – it has a real chance to beat anyone. When it mixes mistakes into that formula, it can lose to anyone.

It was the latter version Sunday, and that means it missed a chance to check a lot of boxes.

That doesn’t end the season, and it doesn’t have to define it. But for a team and crowd hoping for something different, it’s really too bad.

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