JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the Jaguars' 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at EverBank Field on Sunday
1. Not enough.We begin this game-day takeaways on defense, an area Head Coach Gus Bradley correctly said didn't play quite well enough Sunday. We say "quite well enough," because the Jaguars' defense wasn't bad throughout. After an 80-yard touchdown drive on the opening possession, the Jaguars allowed the Falcons just one more touchdown. The unit also adjusted in the second half to hold the Falcons to five yards on 17 second-half carries after Atlanta rushed for 78 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown in the first half. But the defense's season-long problems pressuring the quarterback were particularly harmful Sunday. The Jaguars sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan just once, and Atlanta converted six of nine third downs in the second half. All of those conversions came on third- and five or longer with five coming on 3rd-and-7 or longer. "You can look at it and say defensively you gave up six points in the second half, but the time of possession …" Bradley said. "We didn't get enough stops on third down to give our offense an opportunity." The Falcons held possession for 10:28 in the fourth quarter.
2. Error after error.While the defense struggled on third downs, allowing 7 of 14 for the game, the offense had its share of issues in that area – and plenty of others. The Jaguars finished the game without a third-down conversion on eight chances, and overall the performance was significantly more ragged than when scoring 90 points over the last two games. Quarterback Blake Bortles threw his first interception in the last three games, and it came in a costly situation: on first-and-goal from the one-yard line with the Jaguars trailing 14-3 with: 11 remaining in the second quarter. Bortles led touchdown drives on the first two drives of the second half, but the offense produced just one first down on three fourth-quarter drives. "We just didn't execute very well in the fourth quarter on both sides of the ball," Bradley said. The long fourth-quarter first down came on a 30-yard reception by wide receiver Marqise Lee, but the Jaguars' other 11 fourth-quarter plays produced one yard, three fumbles and two sacks. "It was just a lack of execution … a lack of making plays," Bortles said. "We had chances. We had opportunities." Running back Denard Robinson fumbled twice in the fourth quarter and Bortles fumbled once. "No excuses, I've just got to hold on to the ball," Robinson said.
3.Toughing it out I.Paul Posluszny wasn't thrilled with his performance Sunday, but considering he played with a club on his right hand, it was far from bad. "I thought he played his tail off," Bradley said. Posluszny, the Jaguars' starting middle linebacker, said the device protecting his fractured right hand caused him significant problems fighting off blocks early. He said those issues led to some of the problems the Jaguars had against the run late in the first half. "I should be better than that," Posluszny said. "We made some adjustments (in the second half) and our defensive line did an unbelievable job of holding guys up so I could run to the football. That really, really helped. We made some adjustments, made some different calls and the D-line played really, really well." Posluszny finished with a team-high 10 tackles, two for losses, and intercepted a pass after it was deflected by defensive end Jared Odrick. "J.O. couldn't have made it any easier for me," Poslusnzy said. "Thank goodness it was an easy one."
Gameday images of the Jaguars Week-15 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.
4. Toughing it out II.By game's end, the Jaguars had two linebackers playing with hand injuries, and the hand wasn't the only thing bothering weakside linebacker Telvin Smith. The second-year veteran sustained a finger injury Sunday, also playing through a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder throughout the second half. Smith finished with six tackles, including one for loss, and was in and out of the game throughout the second half being checked by the team's medical staff. "It was tough," Smith said. "Dealing with both of those was tough in the second half, but you just have to keep battling. You have to keep pushing it. Today was a tough day for me – scheme-wise, they had a solid scheme and I didn't take full advantage of every opportunity that I had to make plays. I learned something today." Said cornerback Aaron Colvin, "Telvin's a competitor and he plays so fast. When he gets hurt, it's hard for him to control it. We're real close and I saw him trying to finish plays, and come over the top. He kept getting hurt. I was telling him, 'We need you.' I was trying to find a way to get him to slow down, but he can't slow down. I commend him for that." Otto linebacker Dan Skuta played through a hamstring injury and safety Josh Evans sustained a knee injury late in the game.
5. House and Julio.Jaguar's cornerback Davon House drew the difficult assignment of shadowing Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones; overall, he fared as well as could be expected. Jones, who entered the game with a league-high 109 receptions for 1,426 yards and six touchdowns, was targeted 13 times by quarterback Matt Ryan Sunday. He caught nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. But more than any individual matchup, House and Colvin both said the inability to get off the field on third down mattered more than any individual matchup. "We always talk about third-downs situation," House said. "We have to do better on third down." Said Colvin, "Every time I looked, it felt like they were getting a first down. It was frustrating and we have to correct it and find a way to get off the field."