They begin again as they did a week ago, coming off a bitter loss with major uncertainties about their kicking game, criticism of coaching decisions and mysterious theories about a passing game that has fallen on hard times.
The Jaguars were a beleaguered lot as they left Alltel Stadium tonight following a 21-19 loss to the expansion Houston Texans. It was the Texans' first-ever road victory.
"Two missed field goals … I'm going to look at it tomorrow like I always do; try to assess what is there. I certainly wasn't impressed by the kickoffs," coach Tom Coughlin said of his kicking game, which produced missed field goal attempts by Tim Seder from 50 and 35 yards.
As was the case with Hayden Epstein last week, Seder is on the hot seat this week. He will shoulder a major degree of the blame for this loss, just five days after he was signed to do what Epstein couldn't.
"You have to go out there and make them," Seder said, offering no excuse for his miss from 35 yards on the last play of the first half. Most observers felt Coughlin should've ordered quarterback Mark Brunell to spike the ball and stop the clock on third down, to allow Seder more time to prepare for his kick. "That one at the end of the half you have to make," he added.
Seder's performance was just one of many issues surrounding the Jaguars' loss. These are some others:
• With the Jaguars punting with 3:21 remaining to be played, the Texans presented unique return personnel in the forms of Jabar Gaffney and Aaron Glenn. Up to that point, Jermaine Lewis had been the Texans' punt-returner.
But the Jaguars weren't alert to the change and suspicious of a trick play. Gaffney fielded the punt, then threw laterally across the field to Glenn, who raced 47 yards down the left sideline to the Jaguars 33-yard line. Four plays later, Chris Brown booted a 45-yard, game-winning field goal.
"You have to open your eyes and see who's back there on the punt return and see who's not back there. They beat us on a play on which they were alert and we weren't," Coughlin said.
The Jaguars' attention was distracted by the previous play, a third-down incompletion to wide receiver Micah Ross. There was debate as to whether Ross had made the catch for a first down, causing the Jaguars' punt team to be late in getting onto the field.
"They were trying to see if it was complete or not, so we rushed out there. Lewis had been banged up anyway; shoulder injury. The change there wasn't big," Kiwaukee Thomas said.
"The situation was perfect for them to pull something off. The dropped ball (Ross) should have never happened," Coughlin said.
• Clock management problems in the final minute of the game squandered 50 seconds of valuable time. Following a completion that gained a first down at the Houston 45-yard line, and needing only a field goal to win, the Jaguars had 57 seconds remaining on a turning clock. Instead of ordering Brunell to spike the ball and stop the clock, Coughlin motioned to continue play. Brunell did, but he was sacked on consecutive plays by linebacker Kailee Wong, and only seven seconds remained when Brunell took the third-down snap. On fourth down with two seconds to play, Brunell's "Hail Mary" pass in the end zone was tipped ever-so-slightly away from the waiting arms of wide receiver Bobby Shaw.
Brunell suffered through his second consecutive ineffective performance -- 16 of 34 for 202 yards and one touchdown -- following a concussion in Tennessee on Oct. 13.
"He was not comfortable. He took too many hits. They had five sacks, but how many times did they hit him?" Coughlin asked of Brunell, who was struck helmet-to-helmet by defensive tackle Gary Walker following one pass in the fourth quarter. Walker was penalized for roughing the passer but Brunell was left to wobble to his feet.
The Jaguars offense continued its slump. Fred Taylor's 84 yards rushing had little impact on the game, and though Brunell found Jimmy Smith four times for 80 yards and one touchdown, Brunell and Smith misfired on several occasions. The Jaguars' "Big Three" is not carrying the load as they had early in the season.
"When you get completely whipped up front, I mean the offensive line gets whipped and you can't get the running game going at all, and the passing game wasn't much to speak of, either," Coughlin said.
Defensively, the Jaguars played well enough to win, but it allowed the Texans a 10-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown that staked the Texans to an 18-12 lead with 11:28 to play in the game.
The Jaguars countered with a seven-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a two-yard, Stacey Mack touchdown run that left the Jaguars with a 19-18 lead. Then, the roof caved in.
"Where do we go from here? You go back to work. We don't have a lot of options personnel-wise. You have to line up and play and do your job," Coughlin said.
Smith echoed those sentiments in a personal way, after having questioned his role in the offense early last week.
"I was frustrated. What are you going to do?" he said. "Are you going to complain about it or go out there, strap it up and make a play. That's what I'm going to do."