GLENDALE, Ariz. – This one wasn't cause for panic. Not even close.
Anxiety? Sure. Frustration? Absolutely.
But not panic.
Yes, a 27-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday stung because the Jaguars had a chance to win and perhaps should have won at the end.
Yes, they dropped into a first-place tie in the AFC South when it looked like they had a chance for yet another defensive-produced miracle victory – and dropping to a tie for first place stinks when you've been there alone.
But remember what that last paragraph means: that although the Jaguars are no longer alone in first place, they have a share of it. They are 7-4 and tied for first in the AFC South with Tennessee, and it sort of seems that that's where this team has been for a while and where it will continue to be for a while.
So, no: Sunday was not cause for panic. The Jaguars are still very good on defense and they're still really struggling on offense. That formula was enough for them to win four consecutive games, and it was nearly enough to win Sunday.
The formula probably means games will be tight from here on out. It means the last five games of the season will be nerve-wracking. The Jaguars will have to win with defense. The margin for error will stay small.
That's OK. The Jaguars can win with that formula. It won't be easy. It will be hard.
But it doesn't mean it's time for panic.
Let's get to it …
Logan from Wichita:
I have seen better offense from a peewee football team on their bye week!!! This offense is 100 percent TRASH!!!!!!!!!!
John: This was sent early in the game and the Jaguars' offensive struggles indeed continued a lot of the game. The reality is this offense absolutely is struggling right now. It's facing a difficult combination of a line missing two starters and a receiving corps without not only Allen Robinson but without Allen Hurns. The running game is struggling and it's difficult to pass with the line struggling to protect. Credit the Jaguars' offense for a couple of significant, gutty drives in the second half that got the Jaguars back in the game. Quarterback Blake Bortles was particularly impressive for a while, shaking off a big hit and avoiding pressure. Then he had the horrific late-game mistake – and once again, it was the sort of game-altering play you just can't make. Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu's interception cost the Jaguars a fourth-quarter field goal opportunity, and it felts as if Arizona had the advantage from there on. The Jaguars right now have very little margin for error. Every drive it feels like you're holding your breath and wondering where the plays will come from. It felt that way Sunday and for the first time in a month, the Jaguars couldn't overcome it.
The Third from Boston:
Back down to earth?
John: I suppose, but the reality this wasn't a soul-crushing, season-ending game. It was a game in which the Jaguars' offensive struggles cost them in a big way – and a game in which the defense couldn't quite make the game-ending stop it had made much of the season. This was a tough loss, and it ended the four-game winning streak. So, in that sense … yeah, down to earth – for now, at least.
Jeremy from Newport, RI:
Nate Hackett continues his stubborn, conservative play-calling. What gives? How about a play-action pass to start the game? Maybe don't run on first and second downs. Put the team in a position to win and be smartly aggressive. Why does Hackett give possessions away?
John: Because he hates you. (I kid. Perhaps it had something to do with an offensive line struggling to pass protect and struggling to run block. I'll check.)
Josh from Columbus, OH:
John, how many times are we going to run a single back straight up the middle against a nine-man box? I understand that we are down a couple of linemen, but when we go one receiver and multiple tight-ends every single person in the stadium knows what play is coming. It's just asking for trouble. It's a broken record in this forum, but some more creative play calling would do wonders.
John: I understand the yearning for creativity. I also understand it's difficult to be creative with a struggling offensive line that allows three sacks and a lot of pressure outside those sacks.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
I don't like how this game is going early. Offense looks completely out of rhythm.
John: This was the much-anticipated, much-ballyhooed, often-premature first email of the game. It wasn't wrong. This was dicey early and although the offense produced a couple of big second-half touchdowns, it never did feel like it was in a rhythm. It's a unit searching for answers right now. They're proving difficult to find.
Robert from Titusville, FL:
Playoffs??? You want to talk about playoffs??? I'd be surprised if we win another game.
John: This is incorrect, too.
Jerrel from Columbia, SC:
Jags defense trash. This team is trash.
John: Also incorrect.