As quickly as they ascended, they have fallen. The Jaguars fell out of first place on Sunday and now they have to break their fall against a Kansas City team that has its own problems.
A 34-21 loss to the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium left the Jaguars with an identity crisis. After allowing just 28 points in the first three games of the season, the Jaguars have allowed 58 points in the last two.
Who are these Jaguars? Maybe we'll find out this Sunday when the 3-2 Jaguars host the 1-3 Chiefs.
"We just laid an egg today," quarterback Byron Leftwich said.
Leftwich set career highs for pass attempts (54), completions (36) and yards passing (357), but after the Chargers completed a 14-0 first-quarter flurry, the Jaguars never got closer than within 13 points of the home team.
Whereas in the first three games of the year Leftwich offered minor production and the Jaguars won on the strength of their defense, in the last two games Leftwich has lit up the skies but to no avail because the defense has all of a sudden gone soft.
"I'd rather be five for eight for 40 yards and win," Leftwich said.
The second-year quarterback had a big day statistically against the Chargers, but the two interceptions he threw were also major factors in the defeat. The first interception, the result of having overthrown wide receiver Ernest Wilford, was returned 40 yards and led directly a touchdown that staked the Chargers to a 21-0 lead. The second interception, in the third quarter, led to a field goal that left the Jaguars trailing 27-7.
"Two fundamental areas I preach and believe in failed us," coach Jack Del Rio told reporters, referring to 176 yards rushing allowed by the defense and three turnovers committed by the offense.
"It's a recipe for an ugly day. They are issues that made it the kind of day we just experienced. It was an ugly display of football," Del Rio added.
Let's start with the defense:
• After Chargers star running back LaDainian Tomlinson roughed up the Jaguars in the passing game – four catches for 78 yards, including a 54-yarder that set up the Chargers' second touchdown – reserve running back Jesse Chatman entered the game and reeled off consecutive runs of 31 and 41 yards in a two-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that sealed the victory after the Jaguars had cut the Chargers' lead to 27-14 with 10:42 to play in the game.
• Quarterback Drew Brees drove the Chargers to touchdowns on their first two possessions. Brees completed 10 of 13 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown in the first quarter, en route to a 17 of 26 day that included 211 yards passing, two touchdown tosses to tight end Antonio Gates and a 116.0 passer rating.
• The Jaguars unveiled lineup changes on defense, as Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud was moved to defensive end.
"We liked the physical matchup," Del Rio said of Stroud vs. rookie offensive tackle Shane Olivea. "They're a power running team and we got him over there where we thought the power was going to be run."
Stroud said he was willing to make the position switch for the good of the team. "We were short on the line and they needed somebody to go out there. I do what the coach tells me to do to help the team," Stroud said.
"We have to go back to doing the things we do to stop the run," Stroud added. "We need to go back to our techniques."
The Jaguars developed a reputation last season for being strong against the run, finishing second in the league in that department. They upheld that reputation through the first couple weeks of this season but have since fallen hard in the run-defense rankings while allowing long touchdown runs by Tennessee and San Diego.
"There were three long runs that were the direct result of (missed assignments)," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said of the loss in San Diego. "I didn't see it coming. I thought this would be a good barometer, playing against a good run-offense."
"We got embarrassed," middle linebacker Mike Peterson said. "That's what happens when you don't play Jaguars football."
Offensively, the Jaguars' numbers look good, but most of what they did was after the fact. The Chargers kept the Jaguars at arm's length all day, and the Chargers' early surge forced the Jaguars to be more aggressive than they would've liked.
"That's tough. It got the crowd into it and it got those guys jacked up. It's tough to do that on the road," Leftwich said of coming back from an early deficit.
The Jaguars offense could help its own cause by scoring in the first quarter, which the team has not done this season.
"Offensively, we have to put points on the board consistently. We have to find ways to put the ball in the end zone early to help our defense," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said.
Running back Fred Taylor was limited to 11 rushing attempts for 64 yards, as the Jaguars were forced to pass exactly three times more often than they ran the ball.
"It all depends on how we bounce back," Leftwich said with an eye toward this Sunday's game against the Chiefs.