JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars didn't get the start to the 2015 season they wanted.
Quarterback Blake Bortles completed 22 of 40 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, and the Jaguars couldn't overcome a slew of mistakes in a 20-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers Sunday in front of 60,733 at EverBank Field Sunday in the 2015 regular-season opener.
The Jaguars' biggest mistake came early in the third quarter.
Trailing 10-9 after scoring a late first-half touchdown, the Jaguars had a chance to drive for the lead, but Bortles' pass to the right sideline was intercepted by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.
Norman returned it 30 yards untouched for a touchdown and a 17-9 Panthers lead with 9:01 remaining in the third quarter. The Jaguars had multiple opportunities after that to tie or cut the lead, but struggled offensively throughout the second half.
Bortles also was intercepted by linebacker Thomas Davis on a tipped pass just before the two-minute warning with the Panthers leading by 11 points.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed 18 of 31 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown with one interception. The Panthers committed one turnover.
The Panthers led 10-9 after a first half that started slow, featured missed opportunities by both teams, then gained momentum at the end.
Carolina took a 10-3 lead with a seven-yard pass from Newton to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. That play capped a 66-yard, 12-play drive and ended with 1:38 remaining in the half.
The Jaguars responded with an impressive 65-yard, nine-play drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Bortles to rookie wide receiver Rashad Greene. Bortles completed seven of eight passes on the drive, including a 24-yarder to Allen Hurns that gave Jacksonville 1st-and-goal at the Panthers 1.
Bortles' touchdown to Greene came two plays later.
The half ended with the Panthers leading by one when Jaguars rookie kicker Jason Myers – who earlier in the second quarter missed from 44 yards – missed the ensuing point after.
The Panthers took an early 3-0 lead with a 43-yard field goal by Graham Gano. That capped a 14-play, 45-yard drive on Carolina's first possession after a Jaguars three-and-out. The Jaguars tied it late in the first quarter with a 22-yard field goal by Myers that capped a 54-yard, 11-play drive.
The Jaguars one possession earlier stopped a Panthers drive that began at the Jaguars 36. That possession ended with a 53-yard missed field goal by Gano. A key play on that drive came when Ted Ginn Jr. dropped what could have been a touchdown pass from Newton.
Player of the game
Paul Posluszny, middle linebacker. This had a chance to be a memorable game for Posluszny. The veteran middle linebacker not only was active against the run in the first half, he also had an early pass breakup and an interception that could have given the Jaguars an early advantage. On the interception, Posluszny made a leaping, snatching catch of a pass by Newton and returned it 19 yards to the Panthers 24. The Jaguars lost two yards on the ensuing series and Myers' 44-yard field-goal attempt was wide right.
The Jaguars produced 265 yards offense and 18 first downs, and while they moved the ball between the 20s relatively consistently early, they were hurt by drops and mistakes. Wide receivers Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Greene all had drops that would have been gains of at least 15 yards. Bortles was sacked five times.
The defense overall played well enough to win. The unit registered two sacks and had a big interception in the first half that should have led to points. The Panthers finished with 253 total yards and 17 first downs.
The Jaguars' special teams as a unit didn't play poorly, but the day will be remembered for the play of Myers. In his first regular-season game, the rookie missed from 44 yards in the second quarter and also missed his first point-after attempt. Defensive end Chris Clemons blocked a field goal by Gano with 1:09 remaining.
Exclusive behind the scenes images as the Jaguars prepare for the 2015 Regular Season opener.
*Jaguars safety Johnathan Cyprien left game with an early calf injury but returned on the ensuing series. Left tackle Luke Joeckel left with an ankle injury late in the second quarter and though he returned to start the second half, he left again on the first series and did not return.
*Jaguars rookie outside linebacker Thurston Armbrister left the game with a back injury early in the second half and Greene left late in the game after a hard hit by cornerback Bene Benwikere. …
*Wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring) and running back Toby Gerhart (abdomen) did not play for the Jaguars Sunday, having been ruled out 90 minutes before kickoff. They were the Jaguars players whose statuses were most uncertain entering Sunday, with Lee entering the weekend doubtful and Gerhart questionable. …
*Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee), tight end Julius Thomas (hand) and defensive end Andre Branch (knee) all missed Sunday. They had been ruled out Friday. Tyson Alualu started at three-technique tackle for Marks, with Clay Harbor moving to Thomas' move tight-end position and Chris Clemons starting at Leo with Branch out. …
*Guard A.J. Cann and center Luke Bowanko also were ruled out for the Jaguars before the game Sunday. They were the only two "healthy scratches."
*Standing out *
*Clemons and Dan Skuta, a pair of veterans, had a pair of big plays for the Jaguars Sunday. Clemons, the team's starting Leo end, had a sack that helped the Jaguars hold the Panthers to an early field goal and Skuta – the team's starting Otto linebacker – had the team's second sack. That came early in the second half and ended the Panthers first possession of the third quarter. …
*Greene, the rookie wide receiver, continued his recent progression and turned in a solid NFL debut. He had one drop, but also caught seven passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.
*Hurns caught five passes for 60 yards.
*Jaguars rookie running back T.J. Yeldon flashed at times early, rushing for 51 yards on 12 carries.