CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Calais Campbell couldn't explain all that went wrong.
But the Jaguars' Pro Bowl defensive end felt strongly about one thing after a 34-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium Sunday.
"We're too good on defense to play the way we played," Campbell said.
The Jaguars must hope their defensive co-captain is right, because Panthers running backs Christian McCaffrey and Reggie Bonnafon rushed over, around and through the Jaguars on a day when the Jacksonville offense played well enough to win and the defense did not.
"I don't know how many yards they had rushing, but it had to be a lot," Campbell said. "We're just way too good for that to happen. Eventually, it has to click."
McCaffrey rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, and also caught six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, with Bonnafon adding 80 yards rushing and a touchdown on five carries. The Panthers rushed for 285 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, averaging 10.6 yards a carry.
"There were a couple of situations where people were out of their gaps," middle linebacker and co-captain Myles Jack said. "We're a gap defense, so if somebody's out of their gap it's going to be wide, wide open….
"It's not a physical thing at all. It's being in your gap. I guess you can put it on discipline. We just have to be better. That's really what it comes down to. It's nothing that was spectacular, or that weren't prepared for. It starts with me. I put it on my shoulders."
Two Panthers running plays hurt more than the others. The first was an 84-yard run by McCaffrey, a play on which he ran untouched through a gaping hole to extend the Panthers' lead to 28-17 on their first play of the second half.
"That was on me," Jack said. "We were in man coverage and I was tracking the tight end to make sure they don't run the boot[leg]. I just have to play the run. I put that on my shoulders. That was on me."
Said Campbell: "He [McCaffrey] made a spectacular play. We busted and made some mistakes, and he capitalized on it."
Campbell said a second play later was particularly difficult to accept. With the Jaguars having cut the lead to 28-27 in the fourth quarter, and with McCaffrey out of the game with a lower leg injury, Bonnafon ran untouched around the right side of the line for a 59-yard touchdown.
"He came in the same area, and I don't know how it went down, but you have to find a way to get him down," Campbell said.
Head Coach Doug Marrone, like Jack, talked afterward about players being out of their gaps in a gap-control defense.
"We got knocked out of our gap and when you get knocked out of your gap, when no one's in there, it's going to go right to the secondary," Marrone said. "That's what happened: we got knocked out of our gap or we weren't in our gap. When you do that in this league against good running backs, they're going to find it."
Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. continued what has been a breakout second season Sunday, catching eight passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. "I think I saw the same thing I've seen all year: a guy that can make plays," Marrone said. "He's playing at a high confidence level. We're getting a lot out of him, he's really doing well and he's making plays for us and as long as he's doing that, it's going to give us a chance. I'm very happy with him." Chark has five touchdown receptions this season, and had a sixth negated by penalty in Denver last week.
Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew completed 26 of 44 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions Sunday for a passer rating of 101.9. He went a fourth consecutive start without an interception, but he lost three fumbles Sunday. One of the fumbles was directly caused by guard Andrew Norwell getting pushed back into Minshew with extraordinary speed and force by Panthers defensive end Mario Addison, and Minshew had one fumble forced when he got hit from behind while trying to create extra time to pass. "You feel like you always have a chance when he's in there," Marrone said of Minshew. "You feel like he's going to go ahead and he's going to make a play. I think sometimes you see him running around and moving around and ducking and going and eventually, that stuff – in this league – is going to catch up to you where they're going to knock the ball out. Sometimes you're going to make plays, sometimes you're not. We just appreciate that the guy's out there giving us everything he has and that's all you can ask for from a player."
Campbell: "It's hard when you make as many mistakes as we made, and they capitalize on them like that for your team to win a ballgame. Every team is too competitive in this league and wins are too hard to come across. When you make mistakes, you're going to get beat."
Marrone: "I thought the guys were resilient, they kept going even though we gave up big runs or we didn't score, we were able to get back and had a chance to get back in the game and had a chance to win the game. But their attitude, the way they're going about their business, the team – that stuff is good."