ARLINGTON, Texas – Malik Jackson put it simply.
"We got our ass kicked today," the Pro Bowl defensive tackle said after the Jaguars' top-ranked defense allowed 23 first downs and 378 yards in a 40-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
"I don't know what else to tell you. We got our ass kicked today. We will bounce back."
That was a theme in the Jaguars' locker room after a Cowboys offense that entered the game ranked No 25 in the NFL in total yards controlled the game's momentum from the start.
"This wasn't us," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "This wasn't our kind of ball. We run out here and we played like somebody else. Like imposters. This wasn't us. At the same time, we have to wear it. Because it is us. That's who we are right now. The only way it's going to change is the work we put in this week. …
"We have to execute. We didn't execute at all. And they took advantage of every opportunity they could."
Priority One: improving communication. That was another post-game theme, with Head Coach Doug Marrone answering a question about the effort of the defense by simply saying: "No … miscommunication."
Marrone said the miscommunication occurred on all three levels of the defense: line, linebacker and secondary.
"When you have miscommunication at all three levels, obviously, you've got to take a good look at yourself," Marrone said. "I've got to take a good look at what we're doing, making sure we're not doing too much and then we've got to coach it better and we've got to go out there and perform better. It's not just one group with all three levels that we've had an issue with. "
The Cowboys scored on their first four possessions, with quarterback Dak Prescott running for a 17-yard first-quarter touchdown and throwing for two second-quarter touchdowns.
"There were just mistakes made," linebacker Myles Jack said. "And when those mistakes got made, they got exploited."
Safety Barry Church called the miscommunications something that can be fixed.
"It's something that once we watch the film we will be able to shore up, but we have to get that down first," Church said. "We can have all the talent in the world, but if you are not playing as one unit, the proof is in the pudding out there. We have to come together to play as one. We will get the job done."
The Jaguars are 3-3 and tied with the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans for first place in the AFC South. That makes a game against Houston at TIAA Bank Field Sunday important. "There are ten games left," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. "There's a long way to go. Obviously, Tennessee's got the edge beating us [in Week 3]. … We're not in a bad place at all. We're obviously not where we want to be or expected to be. But I think we've got to continue to find ways to move on from games like this and turn it around and go play the way we know we can play."
A season-long trend continued Sunday – and in the case of Sunday's game, the trend was bad for the Jaguars. The Jaguars this season have started hot offensively in all three of their victories, never trailing against the New York Giants (a 20-9 Week 1 victory), against the New England Patriots (a 31-20 Week 2 victory) and the New York Jets (a 31-12 Week 4 victory). They have not led in any of their three losses, losing 9-6 to the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, 30-14 to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5 and 40-7 to the Cowboys Sunday. The Jaguars trailed 20-0 at halftime against Kansas City and 24-0 at halftime Sunday. "We've got to do a better job offensively of getting started early," Bortles said. "The games we've played well as an offense we got started early. … That's how we need to start, but we've also got to find a way if we don't start like that, to overcome that and get rolling." Said Marrone: "I'm responsible for it. I'm going to figure it out but it's my job to make sure that our team comes out and they're ready to play, so that's me. I mean, there's nobody else but me. That's my job."
Bortles completed 15 of 26 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown with an interception and was 6-of-8 for 35 yards and no touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half. He was sacked three times but hurried seven times after being sacked five times and hurried 11 times against Kansas City. Marrone was asked if he considered playing backup quarterback Cody Kessler Sunday. "It's hard to say it's the quarterback when it's everybody, including the coaches, including myself," Marrone said. "I wish it was that easy I wish you could say there it is, get him out, let's go, but that wasn't the case. It's everybody."
Bortles: "We played, once again, pretty bad."
Marrone: "There's not one spot I can honestly say that we performed well enough to win today."
Wide receiver Donte Moncrief: "It is a little bit of everything. But mostly it is on us. … You have to know the game plan, make plays and execute. So that is on us. That is what we have to do. We have to come back this week and focus on offense, make plays and keep the defense off the field."
Campbell: "We just have to play ball. Talking has never won a ballgame. … They beat us. We have to wear it. As bad as it gets, we have to wear it. We have to just wear it and come back this week with everything we have to figure out how to win this next ball game. We can't talk about the future and all that. We have to cash in on this next ballgame and make sure we win this one."
Jack: "We will definitely go back and learn from this. We feel like we will definitely get better. The confidence is always going to be there. We have talented guys, we have ballers. I'm not worried about that."
Linebacker Telvin Smith: "I don't think people realize how many injuries we have. People are expecting this team to pick up where we were last year, but we have injuries. It's a different team. We're battlers. We're battling through this season. We're battling our way. We'll be fine."
Smith: "We'll let you all have the doubt. We're fine."