JACKSONVILLE – A day later, the feeling remained the same.
"Like I said last night," Gus Bradley said, "it stings."
The Jaguars lost to the Atlanta Falcons 23-17 at EverBank Field on Sunday afternoon, yet another damaging loss to the team's already-dwindling playoff hopes. The Jaguars' third-year head coach on Monday after reviewing the game said the stinging stemmed from several familiar sources:
*A struggling pass rush.
*An offense that struggled in the first half, particularly on third down.
*A team that overall made too many mistakes and missed too many opportunities.
"We felt like as a team we didn't play as precise as we'd like in all situations, but there are certain situations that really stood out," Bradley said, adding, "I think for us it's missed opportunities because we didn't play as well as we could have.
"There were some consistency things. At critical times … making plays – we just haven't done enough of that during the season to put us in really good situations."
Though the loss hurt the Jaguars' playoff chances, they remain alive in the race for the AFC South title – with their hopes depending on winning and getting help from division rival Tennessee. Houston (7-7) currently leads the AFC South ahead of Indianapolis (6-8) and the Jaguars (5-9).
The Jaguars will win the AFC South if:
*They win their remaining two games – at New Orleans Sunday and at Houston January 3.
*The Texans lose to Tennessee Sunday.
*The Colts lose to Tennessee January 3.
But Bradley said the Jaguars' focus will be more on improving areas in which they struggled Sunday.
"I think they'll look (at the tape) and say, 'These are areas we need to improve on,''' Bradley said. "It seems, 'Well, that's every week.' Yeah, but it's pretty evident. It cost us an opportunity this week where with the way we practiced and prepared we felt pretty good going into this game.
"They're going to want to know why, what took place and how we can improve it. That's how this team always has handled it. I think they want to get it corrected as fast as possible."
The Jaguars stifled the Falcons' running game in the second half Sunday, holding Atlanta to five second-half yards on 17 carries. But time and again, the Falcons converted key third downs.
The Jaguars held the Falcons to one of five third-down conversions in the first half, but with the pass rush generating just one sack, the Falcons converted six of nine second-half third downs. Five of the conversions coming on third-and-seven or longer.
"In the second half, although they only had six points, third down was a big issue with our defense in critical times," Bradley said. "We need to get off the field and give the offense the ball, more opportunities. We didn't do that.
"We really struggled on third down in the second half."
Bradley called the second-half third-down defensive issues "a combination of things," from footwork in the secondary to a lack of pressure up front.
"It's the discipline part," he said. "We have to execute the assignment, execute the defense that's called. That was some, and we just didn't make plays."
Bradley said in addition to the one sack, the defense combined for nine knockdowns and hurries.
"We need more," he said.
The Jaguars struggled even more on third downs on offense than they did on defense. They finished the game failing to convert a third down, something Bradley said contributed heavily to a second consecutive game without a first-half offensive touchdown.
The Jaguars failed to convert a first down in the first half against Indianapolis the week before, meaning they are 0 of 11 on third downs in the first half of the last two games.
"That's a big area we need to improve on," Bradley said. "We've been up and down in that area, but how much emphasis we put on red zone in practice … we need to shift to third down and really take a look at that and try to get some extra reps there. Both sides of the ball need it."
On the injury front:
*Weak-side Linebacker Telvin Smith sustained an AC separation in his right shoulder and a dislocated finger on his left hand Sunday. He played through both injuries. …
*Otto linebacker Dan Skuta played through a right hamstring strain, and running back Denard Robinson reported a left foot sprain on Monday.
*Safety Josh Evans sustained a left knee injury late in the game and was cleared to return.