ST. LOUIS, MO. – Gus Bradley knew all of the storylines.
The Jaguars' head coach knew one story following a 34-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams Sunday was the loss of offensive tackle Luke Joeckel for the season, just as he knew another story was the loss of quarterback Blaine Gabbert for at least the final part of that loss.
But Bradley said to him those weren't the main stories.
At least not for the game.
"The tale of this game was the turnovers," Bradley said following the loss at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo.
The Jaguars outgained the Rams, 363-351, and outplayed the Rams significantly in the first quarter, holding a 156-27 total yardage advantage and a 6-1 advantage in first downs. The Jaguars led 10-7 at the end of the quarter despite an 82-yard interception return by safety Matt Giordano off of a high, errant pass by Gabbert.
The Rams led 24-10 at halftime after outgaining the Jaguars 161-42 in the second quarter, with Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throwing two of his three touchdown passes in the period.
But Bradley focused more on turnovers than yards, with Gabbert not only throwing the interception that Giordano turned into a touchdown, but an interception in the end zone in the third quarter on a pass intended for wide receiver Cecil Shorts III.
The Rams also turned a Jaguars second-quarter turnover into points when Bradford passed 16 yards to Lance Kendricks one play after Jaguars tight end Clay Harbor lost a fumble. Rams cornerback Darian Stewart returned that fumble 19 yards to the 16.
"They were critical to the game," Bradley said. "So many times this game comes down to ball security and making good decisions with the ball. We continue to emphasize that."
Bradley also said shortly after the game that Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, sustained a fractured high ankle early in the game. He was making his first start at left tackle and will miss the rest of the season.
"You lose a good player, but guys will step up," Bradley said.
Gabbert left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury after completing 9 of 19 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. He now has seven interceptions and a touchdown in three starts this season.
Bradley said the hamstring will be evaluated this week, and that if Gabbert is healthy, he will remain the starter. Bradley said he was not considering removing Gabbert before the injury.
"We'll take a look at his injury, but other than that, yes," Bradley said when asked if Gabbert will remain the starter.
Backup quarterback Chad Henne completed 7 of 13 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, leading the Jaguars to a fourth-quarter scoring drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Shorts.
"They both had their moments," Bradley said of Gabbert and Henne.
BLACKMON COMES BACK
Wide receiver Justin Blackmon gave the Jaguars' offense a considerable lift.
Blackmon, playing for the first time this season after serving a four-game suspension to start the season, caught five passes for 136 yards, and his 67-yard touchdown in the first quarter gave the Jaguars an early 7-0 lead.
"You could see his ability and his competitiveness," Bradley said. "He was ready to play today – there's no doubt. I felt like our whole team was, but for him to get that big play right away, it really sparked our team."
Blackmon caught three passes for 90 yards in the first quarter, and then had a 39-yard reception from Henne late in the third quarter that led to a 34-yard field goal by Josh Scobee.
Bradley had talked extensively this week of Blackmon's dedication and approach during his suspension He lost body fat and gained eight pounds. Blackmon said Sunday the conditioning helped Sunday.
"I got my strength back," Blackmon said. "I feel full strength."
Joeckel left the game with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter, leaving the field on a cart.
The injury moved third-year veteran Cameron Bradfield to the left tackle position, with the team leaving Austin Pasztor on the right side. The team started the game rotating Bradfield and Pasztor at right tackle after Pasztor started.
Joeckel moved to the left side this past week after the Jaguars traded left tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens.
"Cam did a nice job," Bradley said. "For him to jump in there and play, both him and Austin, it looked like they were pretty solid."
Tight end Allen Reisner left with a knee injury and did not return, and Gabbert also did not return after a third-quarter hamstring injury. Gabbert had been hit in the non-throwing wrist shortly before the hamstring injury.
- Bradley: "You have to, as a team, have the ability to bounce back, regardless if you're down seven, ten – it doesn't matter. You have to continue to battle and fight back. I felt that from our guys."
- Blackmon: "We have playmakers. We know it. We just have to go out and finish games."
- Running back Maurice Jones-Drew: "It's always tough to see a guy (Joeckel) you count on go out. It's tough when you're the guy who probably hurt him, too. You never want to run up anyone's back like that. He was doing so well, and he was coming along."
- Gabbert: "It (Joeckel's injury) wasn't pretty. It's tough. My heart goes out to him, because he was playing well. That's the rough part about this game. It's a physical sport and injuries do happen."
The Jaguars (0-5) will visit the Broncos in Denver, Colo., Sunday at 4:05 p.m.