Game that was: Another slow start

Jaguars Falcons Football
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II (15) works in the pocket against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA, Ga. – Another week, another slow start.

As has been the case more often than not this season, the Jaguars couldn't overcome that start in a 24-12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.

"We can't just keep putting ourselves in that situation and expect to bail ourselves out," rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II said Sunday. "We're searching every day for how we can fix it. That's frustrating.

"We're not going to let it get us down. We're going to attack every day."

The Jaguars (5-10), losers of six of the last seven games, haven't held a halftime lead since a Week 8 victory over the New York Jets. They have scored 22 first-half points in the last seven games.

Sunday's start against Atlanta was particularly damaging. The Falcons took a 7-0 lead when running back Devonta Freeman's 17-yard run capped the game's opening possession with 12:27 remaining in the first quarter. Rookie wide receiver Michael Walker fumbled the ensuing kickoff, with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan capping a 25-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Freeman 5:32 into the game.

The Jaguars trailed 14-0 at that point. The offense had yet to take a snap.

"When that stuff goes on, it's tough," Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "I look at that that's my responsibility, to make sure the players are ready. Obviously, we didn't do a good enough job."

Marrone said the Jaguars' offensive line struggled with the Falcons' line stunts Falcons early Sunday, causing Minshew to be under undue pressure early.

"That's never a good thing," Marrone said. "You always want to get a guy settled. We were just never able to really get anything done or really recover from that."

Marrone said the Jaguars' receivers also struggled to get separation early, and when the Jaguars tried to run play-action to create separation, "we weren't able to hold up protection-wise."

Minshew completed three of 10 passes for 21 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half. He completed 10 of 21 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown in the second half, and the Jaguars were inside the Falcons 10 trailing by 12 – 24-12 – when Minshew's fourth-down pass to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. fell incomplete in the end zone.

"We (the offense) didn't give us a chance today," Minshew said.

Defensive end Calais Campbell said the slow starts aren't just an issue of the offense struggling.

"We've given up a lot of touchdowns on the first drive," Campbell said. "We have to be better than that. That's not our style. We play much better with an early lead, pinning our ears back and going. It's hard to come from behind every week, but it seems like that's the task."

QUOTABLE I

Marrone: "It was disappointing from the standpoint that this whole season has been disappointing. I'm disappointed in myself that I haven't been able to put our players in better positions, especially offensively, to get off to a better start. This team is fighting, but at the end of the day we're just not making a lot of plays. We're giving up big plays on defense and we're not getting enough big plays on offense. It starts with me, so I've got to do a better job."

QUOTABLE II

Marrone: "When you go down 14-0, there's a lot going through your mind – at least for me. It can go either way. You have to make a decision. Are you going to stand there and fight your way back in there? Or are you going throw in the tail and kind of go through the motions? There really wasn't any of that (going through the motions)."

QUOTABLE III

Campbell: "We have to stay encouraged and finish this year strong. It will be very, very beneficial for all of us to end the season on a good note with a tough win at home."

QUOTABLE IV

Marrone on his post-game message to players: "I told them we have to enjoy our time together. You obviously never know what happens in this league. We have one more opportunity with the guys who are in this locker room to go back to Jacksonville, get focused with the holidays coming up – enjoy that time with your families, get focused – and try to end this season with a win at home. I think that would mean a lot to everyone. After that, as you guys know, whatever happens happens."

QUOTABLE V

Minshew: "We talk about family and we mean it – with everybody in this locker room. Losing is not going to be OK here. Mediocrity is not going to be OK."

*QUOTABLE VI                                                                  *

Cornerback D.J. Hayden: "We have one more game. We just have to finish this last game out strong and prepare. That's really it. That's all you really can do – just finish the last one strong at home, get a win for the fans so they have a good taste in their mouth after the season. Everything else, you just have to let the cards fall where they may."

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