DENVER, Colo. – Gus Bradley won't say this was enough. Not even close.
And moral victory?
Bradley said that absolutely wasn't the case, so he wasn't using that terminology – and following a 35-19 loss to the heavily-favored Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon, no one else around the Jaguars was, either.
"It was a hard-fought game," Bradley, the Jaguars' first-year head coach, said after the Broncos (6-0) pulled away in the final quarter and half in front of 76,862 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"We're not at all satisfied with what took place as far as the outcome. I thought we came out ready to go. It didn't show it, though."
Following the Jaguars' sixth consecutive loss to start the season, Bradley focused on several mistakes made early.
"I thought I saw a team that played with a lot of emotion and it got the best of us," Bradley said.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who entered the game with 20 touchdowns passing and one interception, completed 28 of 42 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and also fumbled twice. His late first-half interception was returned by Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny for a 59-yard touchdown.
That made it 14-12, Broncos, at halftime, and while that was closer than many observers expected, Bradley said mistakes already had hurt.
The Jaguars allowed running back Knowshon Moreno to turn a third-and-20 on the Broncos' first drive into a 28-yard gain. Manning's first touchdown pass – a three-yarder to tight end Julius Thomas – came two plays later.
An unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on the Broncos' ensuing series against defensive end Andre Branch gave the Broncos a first down after an incomplete pass on third-and-14. A 20-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Wes Welker five plays later made it, 14-0, Broncos.
But the Jaguars scored the next 12 points, and when Moreno's 1-yard run on the first series of the third quarter pushed the Denver lead to 21-12, the Jaguars again responded. A nine-play, 80-yard drive ended with a 5-yard run by running back Maurice Jones-Drew to again cut the lead to two points.
"We settled down and I credit out guys for that," Bradley said, adding, "I did get frustrated right away. To get caught up in the emotion of the game and hype of the game and play like that, it was frustrating. But they came back. We came back. They talked to each other, and settled each other down and it was good. That's the part I'm excited about."
For the game, the Jaguars committed seven penalties for 62 yards, with rookie safety Josh Evans committing two first-down-yielding penalties on a Broncos touchdown drive early in the third quarter.
Bradley also said there were significant opportunities missed on offense, including settling for a field goal after facing first-and-goal at the Broncos 4-yard line in the second quarter and missing a two-point conversion pass that could have tied the game, 14-14, late in the first half.
"I think they feel like they're getting close and we're going in the right direction," Bradley said. "But I want them to understand that's not what we're trying to accomplish here. We're trying to get the outcome in our favor."
For a second consecutive week, second-year wide receiver Justin Blackmon made a huge impact.
Blackmon, a week after catching five passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Rams, on Sunday caught 14 passes for 190 yards in the loss to Denver. He has played two games this season since returning from a four-game, season-opening suspension.
He has 19 receptions for 326 yards and a touchdown in those games.
"He's always been a star," Jones-Drew said of Blackmon. "Everybody knows that. There's a reason he got drafted that high (No. 5 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft). He's starting to get comfortable and understand the system and he's improving each week."
Blackmon had seven receptions for 82 yards at halftime.
"He competed," Bradley said. "I talked to him at halftime. I said, 'You're competing your tail off, but you've got to get more. You've got to dig even deeper.' He competed even stronger. I was excited for him."
Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III sustained a sprained shoulder on the team's third play from scrimmage. He did not return.
- Posluszny (tongue-in-cheek regarding the 59-yard interception return for a touchdown: "I have great speed. I'm just glad I got a chance to show it."
- Bradley: "We challenged our guys like we do each and every week to compete their tails off start to finish. I thought we came out ready to go."
- Bradley: "We didn't talk about the point spread with our team. That's not where we want our team to go – in that area."
- Jones-Drew: "The defense did a great job. We were able to keep them off the field a little bit, which was something we were trying to work on."
- Jones-Drew: "It's tough when you play a very solid game and just come up short."
1 .Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne left immediately after the game and did not speak the media. His wife, Brittany, was in labor in Jacksonville.
- Bradley after the game didn't commit to either Henne or Blaine Gabbert as the team's starting quarterback next week. Henne completed 27 of 42 passes for 303 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions. Gabbert didn't play because of a hamstring injury sustained last week. "He did some very good things, but that's what he's supposed to do," Bradley said of Henne. "He's supposed to come in and lead our team. He's supposed to come in and make plays. He's supposed to come in and get the playmakers the ball. He did some of those things. Not as consistent as we would like."
The Jaguars will play host to the San Diego Chargers at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.