JACKSONVILLE – Chris Conley put it directly and simply.
“Offensively, we’ve got to be better,” he said.
What the veteran wide receiver meant specifically was the Jaguars must adjust better to the unexpected than they did Sunday.
The Jaguars scored a season-low points in a 13-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field Sunday afternoon. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II had his worst game in five NFL starts, passing for 173 yards with no touchdown and an interception.
A Saints defense that covered the Jaguars’ outside receivers with man coverage and safety help also emphasized keeping Minshew in the pocket.
“That’s frustrating,” Conley said. “We knew [wide receiver] DJ [Chark Jr.] was going to draw a lot of double coverage. They played a little bit different than we expected them to play today. We expected them to double DJ, but we didn’t expect them to play necessarily play that two man all day today. We have to win against two man.”
The Saints sacked Minshew just twice, but prevented him using his mobility effectively. Mostly, they forced Minshew to pass into the middle of the field. The rookie had two passes there nearly intercepted, and cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercepted a pass in the middle of the field to Chark to end the first drive of the second half.
“They played really good coverage down the field,” Minshew said.
Saints cornerback Eli Apple said the approach was “just about showing different looks, trying to confuse him into throwing us the ball and he did that in the second half.”
Conley said the Jaguars didn’t attack the defense’s potential soft spot in the middle of the field well enough.
“We didn’t play fast enough for 15; we didn’t open fast enough for him,” Conley said. “We’ve got to get there faster.”
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said doubling the outside receivers with safety help deep allowed the Saints to be aggressive on underneath passes.
“At the end of the day, do we sit here and say we have to do a better job?” Marrone said. “Absolutely. No doubt about it, but at the end of the day, sometimes you have to say, ‘Those guys are pretty darn good, and they covered us, and they won that battle.’ I hate to say that, but that’s what happens. …
“They did a couple of things, a couple little wrinkles that we were trying to make adjustments and catch up to, but we expect that in this league. That’s what happens. When you have a young quarterback, you’re going to expect things like that.”
The Saints also limited Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark to three receptions for 43 yards. He entered the game leading the AFC in receiving yards with 30 receptions for 528 yards and five touchdowns.
“We had to change up the play scheme and get to the middle of the field,” Chark said. “This is something we can learn from. We also need to find the holes within the defense and the schemes so that when we see it again playing against a different team, we will be able to find different ways to attack and be better.”
Marrone challenged a non-pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter on a play involving Conley and safety Marcus Williams. The non-call was upheld in review, continuing a league-wide trend. According to ESPN, 20 of the last 21 interference challenges have been upheld. Marrone said he challenged because Williams contacted Conley before the ball’s arrival, meaning the play should have fulfilled the requirement of being “egregious” enough to overturn. “Obviously, they didn’t feel that way and they didn’t take a chance,” Marrone said. “We know it’s difficult to get a flag down on the field, but I thought at the time that he hit him before the ball got to him. I thought that was egregious enough, but I was wrong.” Conley said the Jaguars “kind of knew” going into the review “what we would get; we were hopeful, but we didn’t get the call. That’s the way it has been this year.”
Marrone was pleased with a Jaguars defense that allowed 326 yards and 18 first downs. New Orleans rushed for 104 yards, with running back Alvin Kamara rushing 11 times for 31 yards. Carolina rushed for 285 yards against the Jaguars last week, with running back Christian McCaffrey rushing for 172 yards and two touchdowns. “I thought our defense came back from a game that they didn’t play well last week,” Marrone said. “I thought they did a nice job today, especially in the run game.” Marrone said he especially was pleased with the team’s linebackers. “From a standpoint of where we were last week to where we were this week, that was a great improvement,” he said.
Linebacker Myles Jack: “We’ve got to win now. We’ve got to turn this thing around. We can’t panic. We still got to have fun with and do our jobs. Losing by seven two weeks in a row, it hurts.”
Minshew: “I missed some balls that I can’t miss. They played good coverage at times and got after us up front at times. We’ll go look at the film and figure out what we need to fix.”
Chark: “We know we are right there in every game. We have to continue to fight and be the explosive offense we can be, and our defense needs to continue to be who they were today, and we should see ourselves easily getting back on the board and in good standings in the league.”
Defensive end Calais Campbell: “Every game is crucial to me; we just have to take things one at a time. The next game is the most important game because we need to get back in the win column and keep alive in the league. We have the talent to be a very special team. We have the players, coaches and game plan to make us succeed and win some games before the season ends. At the end of the day, we have to scratch us off some wins.”