ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The Jaguars showed signs of life at the beginning and end.
The middle was too much to overcome.
Blaine Gabbert threw a long early touchdown pass and two interceptions before leaving with an injury, and the Jaguars for a fifth consecutive game made too many mistakes and faced too large a deficit, losing to the St. Louis Rams, 34-20, in front of 54,266 at Edward Jones Dome Sunday.
Gabbert, who completed 9 of 19 passes for 181 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. He did not return, and Chad Henne led the Jaguars to a fourth-quarter touchdown in his place, but it wasn't enough.
The Jaguars slipped to 0-5 for the season.
They have lost all of those games by double-digits, and were heavy underdogs in St. Louis, but the game didn't begin one-sided for St. Louis. Far from it.
Gabbert, making a second consecutive start since returning from a lacerated hand that kept him out Weeks 2 and 3, led a 93-yard first-quarter touchdown drive to give the Jaguars a 7-0 lead.
As notable as Gabbert's 88 yards passing on the drive was that the key play came from Justin Blackmon, the Jaguars' second-year wide receiver.
Returning from a four-game suspension to start the season, Blackmon caught a 25-yard pass from Gabbert between the second and third level of the defense. The team's leading receiver as a rookie last season, Blackmon split the defense and scored on a 67-yard play to give the Jaguars a 7-0 lead with 10:31 remaining in the first quarter.
It was the Jaguars' first touchdown in the first half this season.
It also was Blackmon's first reception of the season, and gave the Jaguars early momentum that they carried into the second quarter.
The Jaguars outgained the Rams, 156-27, in the first quarter and had six first downs to one for the Rams. Even after rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel left the game with an ankle injury late in the half – and even after Rams safety Matt Giordano returned an interception with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter – the Jaguars led 10-7 after kicker Josh Scobee's 48-yard field goal with :13 remaining in the quarter.
The Rams then took control, compiling 10 first downs in the second quarter to one for the Jaguars. The Rams turned a three-point deficit into a 24-10 halftime lead with a 32-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein and touchdown passes by Sam Bradford of 16 yards to Lance Kendricks and four yards to Austin Pettis. Bradford's first touchdown pass broke a 10-10 tie and came one play after cornerback Darian Stewart returned a fumble 19 yards to the 16.
The Rams outgained Jacksonville 161-42 in the second quarter.
The Jaguars cut the lead to 24-13 with a 34-yard field goal by Scobee near the end of the third quarter, but a 37-yard field goal by Zuerlein pushed the lead back to 14 early in the fourth quarter.
Henne threw a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cecil Shorts III early in the fourth quarter made it 27-20, Rams, but Bradford clinched the victory with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Pettis to cap an 8-yard drive on the ensuing possession. That made it 34-20, Rams, with 5:45 remaining.
Bradford completed 19 of 34 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
On Sunday, it came in the second quarter. Even with the injury to Joeckel, and even with Giordano's long interception return, the game was tied 10-10 with just under 12 minutes remaining in the first half – and neither team had significant momentum. But on 2nd-and-10 from the Jaguars 29, Gabbert threw to Harbor for a six-yard gain. Linebacker Alec Ogletree stripped Harbor of the ball just before Harbor was down and cornerback Darian Stewart recovered and returned it 19 yards. Bradford threw to tight end Lance Kendricks for a 16-yard touchdown on the ensuing play and the Jaguars never got closer than seven again.
- Blackmon played well early and made an impact in his first action of the season, starting and catching five passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.
- Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks had a sack and a batted pass on the same Rams possession late in the third quarter. The Jaguars forced a Rams punt from the Rams 10 on the possession. Marks also had a pressure later in the first half.
- Third-year safety Chris Prosinski blocked a punt in the third quarter.
LOOKING ON . . .
*Joeckel, playing his first game at left tackle for the Jaguars, left the game with a right ankle injury late in the first quarter. The injury forced Cameron Bradfield to the left tackle position, with the team leaving Austin Pasztor on the right side. The team had started the game rotating Bradfield and Pasztor, with Joeckel having moved to the left side this past week after trading left tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens.
*Wide receiver Ace Sanders had the breakout play for which he had been waiting in the first quarter – an 89-yard punt return that appeared to give the Jaguars an early lead. The play was called back by an illegal block in the back by rookie LaRoy Reynolds, but Sanders showed the quickness and playmaking punt return ability that caused the Jaguars to select him in the fourth round of the draft.
*Cornerback Will Blackmon continued to play well for the Jaguars. The veteran corner saved a touchdown with a pass defensed in the third quarter on a long pass to Chris Givens.
Joeckel left the game with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter and did not return. Tight end Allen Reisner left with a knee injury and did not return, and Gabbert also did not return after a third-quarter hamstring injury.
Six Jaguars players missed with injuries: tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf), cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle), safety Dwight Lowery (concussion), wide receiver Mike Brown (back), defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey (concussion) and wide receiver Stephen Burton.
Clay Harbor started for Lewis, with Blackmon making a fourth consecutive start for Gratz and rookie Josh Evans making a second consecutive start for Lowery.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi was the lone healthy inactive for the Jaguars.