JACKSONVILLE – This one hurt. It didn't in any way destroy the Jaguars' season. And the guess here is it won't define the season, but yes …
It did hurt.
The Jaguars' defense played well enough to win in a 27-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at EverBank Field late Sunday afternoon. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette and the running game looked good early. Those were good things, but the positives for the most part end there because the special teams played poorly enough to lead directly to 17 first-half points. Seventeen.
This team can't win with that sort of performance.
The passing offense struggled again, too. While quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 241 yards and a touchdown, he also was intercepted in the fourth quarter and struggled to complete passes downfield to take pressure off Fournette. That early-season trend continued in a big, damaging way.
The result? A third loss in six games, and a second loss in as many games this season at EverBank Field.
The Jaguars are still tied for first place in the AFC South. That's good news, and the other good news is that 10 games remain in the season with everything still to be decided.
Still, this one hurt. No question about it.
Let's get to it …
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Jags have no offense when Fournette is stopped.
John: You weren't wrong Sunday, Jerell. Fournette rushed for 100 yards in the first quarter, but the Jaguars' offense struggled for any kind of consistency after that. And yes: that's an early-season trend that now is becoming the defining trait of the Jaguars' offense. The Rams' game plan was an obvious one: stop Fournette and make Bortles beat them with passes down the field. The Rams' game plan didn't work early. It worked really well later in the game. The Jaguars are going to face that approach until they prove they can handle it. I don't know at this point if they will do that. We'll see.
JT from Rosamond, CA:
Our special teams are special for sure.
John: It was a long day for that unit.
Tim from Sour Grapesville:
Missed obvious pass interference penalty and then a blocked punt. Huge momentum turn thanks to the refs. I hope the league issues an apology. Geez!
John: I can't see the Jaguars getting said apology – though one might be in order. Still, this was a lot more than one play. The Jaguars did plenty of things on special teams and on offense to make that game turn out the way it did.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Ok, back to reality. No more playoff talks until they get a better quarterback next year, maybe?
John: The Jaguars are 3-3 through six games, and I'm the first to say they need better play in the passing game – and by that I mean Bortles and the receivers – to scratch their way back above .500. But to say the Jaguars have no chance to make the playoffs? No, I won't say that. This team is tied for first place. It has a victory over the other team tied for first (Houston). Their defense has played very, very good in five of six games with the lone exception the second half of a Week 2 loss to Tennessee? Do they need to improve offensively? Yes. Are they any sort of a lock to finish above .500? No. But the same formula that earned the Jaguars victories over Houston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh – running well and playing turnover-creating defense – will give them a chance to win many, many more games this season. If they play to that formula without disastrous mistakes in other areas – i.e., special teams and the passing game – they can win. If they don't …
Dan from Rincon, GA:
I get that we need to keep the opposing defense honest opening up running lanes with a passing game. But why, o why, was the passing game so prominent in the first half?
John: For precisely the reason you cite.
E Nuff from Banner Elk, NC:
Jekyll and Hyde … looks like it'll be 8-8.
John: Well, considering the Jaguars are 3-3 through six games … yeah, 8-8 seems like a reasonable projection. And if the Jaguars play as they have played so far this season – very good defensively for the most part, very good at times in the running game and struggling in the passing game – then my original seven-to-eight victory projection seems realistic. They clearly need to find answers offensively to prevent teams from stacking the box on Fournette. They had a few answers early Sunday and then the Rams for the most part clamped down on Fournette. Bortles was effective a few times after that, but not enough to change the game's dynamic.
Ryan from Fremont, OH:
I can't wait to read the first email from the game.
John: Hold on …
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Good teams overcome mistakes. These jag-wahs are definitely overcoming some early mistakes
John: … and this was the much-anticipated, much-ballyhooed First Email of the Game. It had a curiously positive tone. It soon stood out for that very reason.