Very quickly, the Jaguars season has reached a crisis point. The Jaguars are 0-2, coming off a 31-17 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, and heading into a three-game stretch that includes two road games and consecutive games against AFC South foes Houston and Tennessee.
"I anticipated us playing better than we did today for sure," coach Jack Del Rio told the media following the game. "I told the team we're 0-2 and you need to turn your ears off because you're not going to like what you hear."
The media will be critical of a performance that allowed Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner to achieve record-setting efficiency and twice dropped a pass that would've cut the Cardinals' lead to seven points. The team's fans will no doubt lash out in anger, even those who didn't see the game; it was blacked out.
Amidst this swirl of disappointment, the Jaguars will have to rally to save their season. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew agreed.
"Being new has nothing to do with it," Jones-Drew said when it was suggested to him the defeat was largely the result of the Jaguars having so many new players on their roster. "It's our job to put up points. If we can't do it, then you know how this business is. We better start doing it before they start making changes."
The Cardinals put up points right away, as Warner drove his offense 75 yards on the first 11 plays of the game, four of which were passes, completed passes. Warner would go on to complete 24 of 26 passes, a 92.3 completion percentage that is an NFL record. Coach Ken Whisenhunt pulled Warner from the game before the third quarter was complete.
"You have to tackle. He was not going to hold the ball. The ball is going to come out quick and you have to tackle," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars moved to a field goal in their first possession, but Arizona did the same in their next possession and then came what can easily be called the two-play turning point in the game. On third-and-12, David Garrard threw a pass for Torry Holt, who appeared to have been the victim of pass-interference, but no flag was thrown. On the following play, Josh Scobee's 46-yard field goal attempt was blocked and the Cardinals' Antrel Rolle scooped up the ball and ran 83 yards for a touchdown.
When the Cardinals recovered a Troy Williamson fumble and drove 68 yards in seven plays for a 24-3 lead with less than a minute to play in the first half, the Jaguars were facing an insurmountable deficit.
Arizona pushed the lead to 31-3 in the third quarter, following a sack and fumble recovery. Warner hit star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald for a 22-yard touchdown. At that point, Whisenhunt pulled the plug and went to backup quarterback Matt Leinart. It was nearly a mistake to have done so.
When Garrard completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sims-Walker with 7:11 to play, the rally was on. Arizona went three and out and the Jaguars had the ball back with 6:06 to play.
The turning point in the rally were two passes for wide receiver Nate Hughes, either one of which should've produced a touchdown. The first went through Hughes' hands. The second one hit him in the head on a fourth-down play. Garrard pounded his fist into the ground.
"I definitely thought it was a touchdown. I hope everyone understands I'm human and these things are frustrating," Garrard said.
Frustration was the word of the day for a team and its fans that expected much better from their home-opener.