NEW ORLEANS—The Jaguars are faced with the task of recovering from the worst defensive performance in team history, following a 41-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
"They threw the ball up and down the field. I have to do a better job as coach," head coach Jack Del Rio said.
Del Rio made no attempt at damage control. He was brutally honest in his postgame comments. He was as hard on his team and himself as Drew Brees was on the Jaguars secondary in passing for 445 yards, the most allowed in Jaguars history. The Saints' 538 total net yards is also the most by a Jaguars opponent.
"They were awfully good today. They are to be commended. They outplayed us, outcoached us," Del Rio said.
Del Rio's nerves were also frayed by a trio of team rules violations on Saturday. Those violations caused two players to be left at home and starting left tackle Khalif Barnes to be benched for the start of the game.
At the midway point of the season, the Jaguars are 5-3 for the fourth consecutive year. They remain in solid contention for a wild-card playoff berth, but they may have to play the remainder of the season without starting right guard Chris Naeole, who was feared to have sustained a ruptured quad tendon. His replacement, Dennis Norman, was forced to leave the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
The question confronting the Jaguars this week as they prepare for a critical AFC South game at Tennessee is: Can they recover? The answer to that question will begin with the defense, which has fallen on hard times in recent weeks.
"Poor showing," Del Rio said of his defense. "We didn't tackle well at all. All in all, it was not near good enough to slow down a guy playing at the level Brees is playing at. I feel similar to after the opener when Tennessee ran it down our throats."
Brees completed 35 of 49 passes for 445 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 119.5 passer rating. The Saints quickly unveiled an ultra-aggressive, throw-it-all-over-the-field game plan that featured 10 completions for 159 yards to wide receiver Marques Colston, and seven catches for 43 yards and a touchdown by Reggie Bush.
The Jaguars were able to keep pace with the Saints through most of the first half. On the Jaguars' third play of the game, quarterback Quinn Gray found Reggie Williams down the left sideline for an 80-yard touchdown pass that cut the Saints' lead to 10-7.
A John Carney field goal tied the game at 10-10, but the Saints kept the pressure on with a 79-yard, four-play touchdown drive that was highlighted by a 57-yard pass play from Brees to tight end Billy Miller, who broke at least three tackles.
Maurice Jones-Drew, however, quickly retaliated with a 100-yard kickoff return on the final play of the first quarter.
The Jaguars defense wasn't up to the task on this day. Brees kept throwing and the Saints kept scoring and the dam broke early in the third quarter when cornerback Mike McKenzie stepped in front of a Gray pass intended for Ernest Wilford. McKenzie caught the ball in stride and raced 75 yards down the sideline for a 31-17 lead. The Saints piled it on from there.
"Our plan was to be a lot more balanced," Del Rio said, referring to more pass attempts and a greater role in the offense for Gray. "We did make some plays through the air. I thought he threw the ball well today."
Gray completed 20 of 33 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions and that dropped his passer rating to 79.6.
Williams enjoyed the best day of his career; his first-ever 100-yard game. He caught six passes for 128 yards.
"It wasn't enough to get the win," said Gray. "I felt a lot more comfortable than last week."
An outside chance exists that Gray will be replaced by David Garrard this week. Should Gray be under center in Tennessee, he will at least be coming off an encouraging performance.
He limped off the field late in the first half after being hit low by Saints defensive end Will Smith. "It was the ankle that kept me out of training camp. It settled down," he said.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis said he is not concerned by the poor performance of the secondary. "There is no concern," he said. "We just missed tackles. It wasn't an 80-yard throw down the field. It was throw 10 yards and run 60. It was on the back end missing tackles."
"It's no lack of focus," he added, referring to the Saturday misconduct issues. "Sometimes you're on, sometimes you're off."
They were off, for sure.